THE VAN. 1996. BASED ON THE BOOK BY RODDY DOYLE. DIRECTED BY STEPHEN FREARS. STARRING COLM MEANEY, DONAL O’KELLY, GER RYAN, CAROLINE ROTHWELL, BRENDAN O’CARROLL, NEILI CONROY AND RUAIDHRI CONROY. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a great f***ing film. I recently saw it on the f***ing big screen because the f***ing book on which it’s based forms part of Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s f***ing BARRYTOWN trilogy, which is the f***ing book of choice for this year’s f***ing DUBLIN: ONE CITY, ONE BOOK festival. Oh sorry, I mean f***ing festival, of course…
Why all the swears? You might well ask. Every second word in the film is the ‘F’ word, but instead of coming across as coarse or vulgar it’s just really, really funny. The film tells the story of two unemployed friends, Larry and Bimbo, who buy a dilapidated old chip van together just in time for Italia ’90. This was the World Cup in which Ireland made it to the quarter-finals and the whole country went football-mad for four whole weeks.
The whole film is one big nostalgia-fest, but only if you’re Irish. It’s got real-life footage of the matches in which Ireland did well, and also the one in which Ireland’s hopes were cruelly dashed by an Italian fella by the name of Toto Schillaci. There’s footage of Irish sporting legends Jack Charlton and goal-keeper Packie Bonner, and even the scenes in the pub during the matches, while obviously not taken from real life, have a really authentic feel to them. Yes, that’s what it was like here during the World Cup of 1990…!
The film isn’t all about the footy, though. It’s mainly about the trials and tribulations of Larry and Bimbo as they set themselves up in a business that’s both unpredictable and tiring. Though the film is well-acted by the entire cast, Colm Meaney as Larry acts everyone else into a cocked hat, as they say. I don’t know where they say it, mind you, but they do say it.
You can keep your Liam Neesons and your Pierce Brosnans. Colm Meaney is Ireland’s best actor by miles, for me anyway. He’s funny and forthright and one hundred percent genuine as Larry, a man who is by no means perfect but who loves his family and his friends and wants to do right by them. He and Bimbo fall out when Bimbo appears to be acting like the big boss of the operation instead of letting Larry be an equal partner, but ultimately they won’t allow the titular van to come between them and ruin their friendship.
Brendan O’Carroll, aka Mrs. Brown, plays a total wide-boy or dodgy salesman in this, and I love Neili Conroy as Larry’s daughter Diane. THE SNAPPER (1993), just as a matter of interest, is the second film in the BARRYTOWN trilogy. It was also directed by Stephen Frears. The first film in the trilogy- makes it sound like LORD OF THE RINGS, doesn’t it, all this ‘trilogy’ palaver…?- is the 1991 movie, THE COMMITMENTS, directed by Alan Parker. Barrytown is a fictional area of Dublin, by the way, in case you hadn’t already worked that out.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching this funny, touching film on the big screen. You really get the full f***ing effect of it that way. Try to watch it yourselves if you can. You will not be f***ing disappointed. I can f***ing promise you that.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: