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In the Name of the Father Movie Review

day lewis british conlon

If U.S. audiences have a difficult time understanding the paternalistic relationship between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, In the Name of the Father reveals the deadlock in sharp relief. While huge land masses like Australia and Canada are successfully and peacefully breaking away from the British Empire, tiny Northern Ireland remains painfully tied to a government determined to keep it under control. That control is a key issue in Jim Sheridan's 1993 film, based on Gerry Conlon's autobiography Proved Innocent. As a very young and rebellious man, Conlon (beautifully played by Daniel Day-Lewis here) was constantly getting in minor skirmishes with the law. None were particularly serious, but all contributed to making him vulnerable to the far more serious charge of blowing up two pubs as a terrorist. Conlon and his equally devil-may-care friend Paul Hill (portrayed by John Lynch) are innocent, but they are hounded around the clock without legal representation by British authorities, determined to secure speedy convictions. Finally, while they are both half-mad from sleep deprivation and relentless interrogations, they make false confessions, and squirm through their subsequent trial. ("We were bored out of our minds,” Day-Lewis as Conlon intones on the soundtrack.) The grim results: not only were both innocent men imprisoned, but their friends and families as well, including Conlon's father, Guiseppe (Pete Postlethwaite, in an Oscar-nominated performance). It is in prison that Conlon gradually becomes politicized by meeting one of the terrorists who was actually responsible for the bombings. He also learns to love and respect his father, a frail but overwhelmingly decent man who retains his deep faith despite the hardships of prison life. Enter Emma Thompson, just right as Gareth Peirce, the Conlons’ new attorney who works tirelessly for their release. She is able to prove what the British authorities knew all along, that not only were the Conlons and their associates entirely innocent, but that crucial evidence was suppressed, and all were kept in prison many years after the real terrorists revealed their identities. Strong stuff and still a sore point among many officials of the British crown, so don't expect In the Name of the Father to be the honored film at the next Royal Command Performance. Director Sheridan packs an incredible amount of information into his 127-minute film, spanning the mid-'70s through the early ‘90s. His powerful economy with images is demonstrated from the very first sequence when the horror of the first bombing takes place in mid-gesture, as it would in real life. By keeping the evolving relationship of father and son in strong focus and by making sure that all the period details are dead on center, Sheridan says more about the tortured Irish-British bond than dozens of other films on the subject.

1993 (R) 127m/C GB IR Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, John Lynch, Corin Redgrave, Beatie Edney, John Benfield, Paterson Joseph, Marie Jones, Gerard McSorley, Frank Harper, Mark Sheppard, Don Baker, Britta Smith, Aidan Grennell, Daniel Massey, Bosco Hogan, Daniel Massey; D: Jim Sheridan; W: Jim Sheridan, Terry George; C: Peter Biziou; M: Trevor Jones, Bono, Sinead O'Connor. Berlin International Film Festival ‘94: Golden Berlin Bear; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘93: Best Actor (Day-Lewis), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director (Sheridan), Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Postlethwaite), Best Supporting Actress (Thompson); British Academy Awards ‘93: Best Actor (Day-Lewis), Best Adapted Screenplay; Golden Globe Awards ‘94: Best Actor—Drama (Day-Lewis), Best Film—Drama, Best Song (“(You Made Me the) Thief of Your Heart”), Best Supporting Actress (Thompson). VHS, LV, Letterbox, Closed Caption, DVD

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