This may well be Ken Loach’s last film. It tells the true story of a 1930s hero, James Gralton, who returned from ten years in the USA, to Ireland, and opened a village dancehall-cum-study centre where locals could educate themselves. The film deals with the disillusion following independence and highlights the absurdities of state and religious repression. It returns to the themes of Loach’s Palme d’Or winning 2006 film, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, about the divisions in Ireland after the civil war: the frustration and rage felt by a younger progressive generation on realising that their new political masters could be just as reactionary and inward-looking as the Brits. Jimmy has to deal with the opposition of the local parish priest and the authoritarian IRA leaders.
Dave Calhoun suggests that Gralton could be a stand-in for Ken Loach who, for five decades ‘has stuck two fingers up at the establishment, asking hard questions about the world while entertaining’. Peter Bradshaw says it is at its best when it ‘expounds an idealism, with its own distinctive frankness’ and he particularly enjoyed a scene in which the local people sit in a circle discussing what a Yeats poem means to them.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall