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Megan Clark | Where’s the Craic?

‘In the Name of the Father’

Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 00:09

In the interest of transparency, I believe I should be as upfront as possible about my feelings for this movie. “In the Name of the Father” (1993) is my favorite movie of all time. I think Jim Sheridan, who directed, co−wrote and produced this movie, is a creative genius. And I think — nay, I know — that Daniel Day−Lewis is the greatest actor working today. My introduction to Irish film, this movie occupies a special place in my heart.

“In the Name of the Father” spans a 15−year period from the 1970s to the late 1980s, and is loosely based upon “Proved Innocent,” the memoir of Gerry Conlon, played in the film by Daniel Day−Lewis. In 1974, Gerry Conlon, along with three others, was accused and subsequently convicted of murder for his supposed involvement in the Guildford Pub Bombings. In addition to these four, six members of Gerry Conlon’s family, including his father, and a family friend were tried and convicted for their involvement. Much of the evidence used against the defendants was either entirely false or based on confessions extracted under torture. Gerry Conlon and the other three major defendants spent 15 years in prison before their convictions were overturned.

While the Guildford Pub Bombing and its aftermath drives the plot of the film, Jim Sheridan focuses on the relationship between Gerry Conlon and his father, Giuseppe Conlon (Pete Postlethwaite). While Gerry and Giuseppe did not share a cell in reality, Jim Sheridan and Terry George, the co−screen−writer, chose to place Gerry and Giuseppe together in order to explore the evolution of their interactions with one another. Gerry, who has always viewed his father as weak due to his ill health, begins to recognize Giuseppe’s strength. As Gerry, portrayed as immature and self−loathing at the beginning of the film, begins to accept more responsibility for himself and his family’s well−being, he and Giuseppe grow closer. Thus, even if you are not particularly interested in “The Troubles,” a period of sectarian violence between Anglo−Irish Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, “In the Name of the Father” can offer you something in the form of a deep character study.

Much of the richness of this film stems from Jim Sheridan’s attention to detail. During an early scene, British detectives are torturing Gerry. The camera views this from outside the room, through a peephole, then zooms out in order to show the action in the hall where another group of detectives are planning a surprise birthday for their colleague. This scene highlights the detectives’ total disregard for Gerry and their other Irish prisoners — they are able to go about their daily lives without any guilt. However, by depicting their simple joy, it also displays the humanity of the torturers.

The film also employs superb acting. Day−Lewis, nominated for an Oscar for his performance, is absolutely perfect in this movie. He effortlessly maintains a balance between Gerry’s vulnerability and external toughness, and allows Gerry’s weakness to reveal itself at crucial moments.

Postlethwaite is also phenomenal as Giuseppe. Throughout most of the movie he maintains complete composure, which heightens the tension when he finally expresses his fear and exhaustion. Finally, Emma Thompson makes good use of her piercing gaze as the Conlons’ lawyer — think Professor Trelawney, whom she portrays in the Harry Potter movies — to convey compassion and strength of purpose.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough. The strong but complicated father−son bond that it portrays and its historical and political significance make it a film of note.

Please join me next week for a stirring analysis of “Perrier’s Bounty” (2009).

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Megan Clark is a junior majoring in history. She can be reached at Megan.Clark@tufts.edu. 

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