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UK 1993
Directed by
Jim Sheridan
132 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

In The Name Of The Father

Jim Sheridan pulls no punches in his story about the framing by the British police and the eventual acquittal, 15 years later, of four young people for an IRA bombing of a pub in Guilford in 1974. The result is a strongly commited film but the tendentiousness, sometimes strident sometimes sentimental, that the director uses to argue his case wears and one cannot help but wish for less righteous outrage and more factual depth.

Adapted by from an autobiography by Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis), one of the so-called "Guilford Four”,  it is little surprise that the screenplay by Sheridan and Terry George makes him the central character. Indeed we barely see the other three accused, the other major dramaturgical presence being that of Conlon’s father, Guiseppe (Pete Postlethwaite.  As much as the framing was an act of gross injustice, with Sheridan unrestrainedly demonizing the British Establishment and their henchmen for this, the incarceration of Conlon’s father and his death in prison is the true tragedy. The film is at its best in telling the story of the fraught father-son relationship (taking directorial license, Sheridan puts the two men in the same cell to give plenty of scope for this). With typically strong performances from Day Lewis and Postlethwaite, as a depiction of the age-old Oedipal conflict this is well drawn as is Conlon’s personal maturation over the years.

Unfortunately Sheridan give too much attention to familiar and largely irrelevant prison antics (the character of fellow inmate Joe McAndrew, played with steely coolness by Don Baker, an IRA man who confesses to the Guildford bombings was another invention) while the story of the eventual acquittal is rather superficially dealt with, coming about, it would seem, because, once again characteristically, the script conveniently supplies a dogged lawyer (Emma Thompson) who takes on Conlon’s case. But as she apparently only succeeds because a piece of supressed police evidence accidentally falls into her hands with then Sheridan expeditiously dealing with the subsequent acquittal of all concerned it all feels rather anti-climactic, the triumphalist ending notwithstanding. One can’t help but think that on seeing this film, Conlon’s co-accused would be saying “what about us?”.

FYI:  Sheridan had already directed Daniel Day Lewis to Oscar-winning success in My Left Foot (1989)




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