Jimmy's Hall ★★★½

"his mother ran a mobile library. Never patronise the self-taught man, especially someone who worked down the mines."

Ken Loach, when not looking at the condition of the working class British, is rather pre-occupied with an Ireland with which he seems to have constant Republican sympathies; and into this aspect of film-making comes the tale of Jimmy Gralton, deported from Ireland because he and a group of volunteers opened a hall and offered classes in singing and dancing and the like to keep up the collective spirits.

With a screenplay from his long-time close collaborator, Paul Laverty, and cinematography by Robbie Ryan, this film benefits from finely nuanced performances from Dublin-born Barry Ward as Jimmy, and Jim 'Bishop Brennan' Norton as Father Sheridan.

Set in 1932-3 this film is signposted by on-screen notes about the Irish-British Civil War, which still cast a shadow a decade after completion, and looks at the conflict between the ever-powerful Catholic Church, the state, and the fledgling IRA. There's also the jazz and free-n-easy influence of the United States, where Gralton had spent some time before returning to his native land.

The real Gralton was in his late forties at deportation, dying just twelve years later in his adopted USA. As a labour campaigner and Communist leader, he had values which are clearly close to the hearts of Loach and Laverty, but for this particular film I found the plot didn't quite get where it promised to go.

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