Megan Clark | Where’s the Craic
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 07:10
The Snapper” (1993) is based on the 1990 Roddy Doyle book of the same name — the second installment in the Barrytown Trilogy — which follows the Rabbitte family. The film focuses on a father-daughter relationship and its strengths and limitations.
The film opens with Sharon (Tina Kellegher), an unmarried 20 year old who still lives at home, telling her parents Dessie (Colm Meaney) and Kay (Ruth McCabe) that she’s pregnant. Despite their Catholic background, the family quickly adjusts to Sharon’s pregnancy, with the gruff yet gentle Dessie acting as her constant defender.
After Sharon breaks the news, Dessie and Kay discuss in their garden how to explain Sharon’s pregnancy to their younger daughters. Though their discomfort is evident, they eventually circle back to the subject at hand. Kay even wonders how Shannon could never have heard of contraceptives — a fairly taboo subject. Sharon’s outrageously vulgar friends take the news similarly well.
The largest sticking point for family and friends is Sharon’s refusal to admit who the father is. They feel, as Dessie describes it, that fathering a child without taking any responsibility is “cheating.” About halfway through the film, they learn that Sharon’s reticence stems from the fact that the baby’s father is George Burgess (Pat Laffan), the much older, married father of one of her friends. As news of the scandal spreads through the tight-knit Dublin community, some of her friends and neighbors begin to turn against her. However, Sharon’s family and her closest friend Jackie (Fionnuala Murphy) close ranks around her — defending her honor with obscenities and sometimes violence.
Making the situation more painful, Sharon’s “affair” with Mr. Burgess wasn’t consensual — it was a rape. Sharon never reveals this to anyone and pretends that she actually had a fling with a Spanish sailor to conceal the truth. The film’s treatment of Sharon’s rape is rather problematic because of the nature of the crime — Mr. Burgess takes advantage of Sharon while she is very drunk. Though this is technically true, the situation still constitutes a rape and the tone of the film makes it seem like the writer and director do not consider the circumstances to be as serious as they are. Nonetheless, the film does explore the unfair burden of blame placed on women who engage in sexual affairs and how traditional Catholic families adapt to situations that do not fit entirely within the bounds of their moral framework.
The most interesting element of “The Snapper” is the relationship between Sharon and Dessie — a stereotypical tough guy with a sensitive side who is incredibly compassionate toward his daughter. Tina Kellegher and Colm Meaney have wonderful chemistry as a father-daughter pair. Their fights, reconciliations and tender moments are all very believable and touching, despite both of their characters’ reluctance to express vulnerability. “The Snapper” is one of Kellegher’s only major roles, but she does a fantastic job portraying a tough but wounded young woman. Meaney is a prolific character actor who often portrays the token Irishman, Scotsman or Welshman in British movies, but also plays more nuanced characters in Irish films.
Initially, when Dessie discovers that Mr. Burgess is the baby’s father, he responds by feeling sorry for himself and acting out. Once he realizes this and admits it to Sharon, he turns over a new leaf and even begins reading a book called “Every Woman” in order to better understand what Sharon is going through. His bumbling attempts to adjust to a more modern approach to pregnancy bring the audience and Sharon much amusement.
Ultimately, “The Snapper” is a story of familial love and — despite the serious subject matter — is very funny. I loved it and hope you will too.
Next week’s film: “Once” (2006).
Megan Clark is a senior who is majoring in English and history. She can be reached at Megan.Clark@tufts.edu.