Starring Barry Ward, Francis Magee, Jim Norton
Jimmy’s Hall doesn’t have a lot to offer American audiences. There are no recognizable cast, little suspense and or action to get the viewer invested. What Jimmy’s Hall does have is a pin pointed historical story that likely most viewers will be unfamiliar with. It’s a small town battle for the right to enjoy the arts and free recreation without the involvement of the church (ironically relevant for what’s happening in the news). The film’s middle section is the most interesting as the small townspeople rise up against the IRA, Government, but more importantly the church. This film isn’t unlike the struggles we saw in Pride last year, a small group of people making a very loud argument trying to change the ways things have always been done.
Depression era 1932, Jimmy Gralton (Ward) returns to his small town of Ireland after being self-exiled to America for ten years. He created a local town hall where dancing, reading and writing, even boxing took place to give the local youth something to do other than attend church. Now he is back and the locals are begging for the hall to be reopened, but there is more resistance now than ever as communist propaganda covers the pages of world news. Local parish priest Father Sheridan (Norton) makes it his mission to have Jimmy banished and run out of the town since their ideas of happiness and freedom contradict each other.
There just isn’t enough vigor here to keep most audiences interested or entertained.
It took me a few minutes to understand what the film was going to focus on. The moment Jimmy comes across the local youth dancing in the street, he is begged to reopen his controversial hall. We see a nearly forgotten town, filled with farmers and poor citizens governed and somewhat bullied by the local priest. This true story if nothing else showcases how far we have come from the separation of church and state and the freedoms we take for granted now. Jimmy’s Hall could however use a little advice from the filmmakers of Calvary last year, an excellent Irish film that broke cinematic boundaries. There just isn’t enough vigor here to keep most audiences interested or entertained.
It’s easy to imagine a story like this with someone like Sean Penn in the title making Jimmy Gralton more of a dynamic character. There are too few scenes between Jimmy and the priest to really understand their opposing but respectful relationship. However the evil priest is certainly a popular villain in cinema right now. The script often chooses anecdotes more often than genuine storytelling and by the end of this tale I never felt I truly grasped the big picture the filmmakers wanted to tell.
Lacks dynamic performances and storytelling.