IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER. (1993) DIRECTED, PRODUCED AND CO-WRITTEN BY JIM SHERIDAN, THE DIRECTOR OF ‘MY LEFT FOOT.’ BASED ON THE BOOK PROVED INNOCENT: THE STORY OF GERRY CONLON OF THE GUILDFORD FOUR BY GERRY CONLON. STARRING DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, PETE POSTLETHWAITE, JOHN LYNCH, MARK SHEPPARD, BEATIE EDNEY, CORIN REDGRAVE, GERARD MCSORLEY AND EMMA THOMPSON. ©
I’m not normally a big fan of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis, but there’s no doubt that he does a top-notch job in this superb film, which I recently re-watched on Saint Patrick’s Day 2016 after waiting a whopping nine hours for a chicken to defrost. Yes, we ate the dinner at eleven o’clock that night. That’s just the way things sometimes go at my house. Anyway, DD-L plays Gerry Conlon here, one of four people wrongly convicted of the IRA’s Guildford Pub Bombings back in 1974.
Gerry, at the time of his wrongful conviction, was a feckless young eejit from Belfast newly-arrived in London with his equally mad-cap chum Paul Hill. All they wanted to do was smoke dope and get off with the long-haired hippie chicks in the squat which dubiously served as their digs.
At the time of the bombings, they were both somewhere else. Petty thieves and messers they may have been, but they did not do the bombings. According to the film, the English police weren’t unduly troubled by the little matter of the truth. It seems like they just wanted to pin the atrocities on someone and Gerry, his father Giuseppe, his Auntie Annie Maguire, Paul Hill and two occupants of the squat, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, were easy prey.
The scenes of chaos as Gerry and his friends and family are first arrested and then variously sentenced to up to thirty years in prison are gripping and even unbelievable, in the sense that you can’t believe that such an obvious miscarriage of justice is taking place before your eyes. ‘But we know he wasn’t there!’ we want to yell at the screen. ‘We saw him kipping on the park bench with Paul and the tramp!’ But there’s no saving the Guildford Four, as they became known.
Gerry goes into prison as a young greenhorn who doesn’t seem to want to take responsibility for his plight. Over the years, however, he becomes more focused on helping himself, particularly after the tragic death in prison of his father, brilliantly and sympathetically played by cuddly old Pete Postlethwaite. His nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards was only one of seven nominations garnered by this terrific film.
Patrick ‘Giuseppe’ Conlon or ‘Da,’ as Gerry calls him, is my favourite character. He’s just a typical parent. He’s not ‘cool’ or glamorous or exciting, just like most parents aren’t, he’s just ‘Da,’ and all he wants is for his son to do well in life. Gerry, on the other hand, just wants to doss around and have a laugh. Gerry and Giuseppe have a complicated relationship, which prison actually gives them a chance to work out. In the film, at least.
I always thought it was odd that the prison authorities would be so kind and accommodating as to allow father and son to bunk in together for the duration of their sentences. I made this observation to friends and family every time I watched the film. It turns out I was right for once, haha. Not only were they not roomies, they apparently were held in separate prisons! This was changed for the film, obviously. I wonder if Gerry ever actually met the real perpetrator of the Guildford Pub Bombings as well like he does in the film?
Also, the Conlons’ lawyer Gareth Peirce, well-played by Emma Thompson, did not actually represent Gerry in court because she was a solicitor and not a barrister. This was another change made for the film. Well…! I don’t mind so much about that bit, but if Gerry and his poor sick ‘Da’ were held in separate prisons, does that mean that the two men did not work out their differences before Giuseppe passed away in prison? That makes me really sad.
‘Look Da, Gerry’s a hippy…!’ Check out the state of Gerry Conlon in his ridiculous new hippy threads, marching through the streets of Belfast to the strains of ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’ by The Kinks. Also check out Gareth Peirce mischievously handing over the paper she’s sneezed on to the snooty security guard.
Gerard McSorley, famous here in Ireland for playing fraudulent priest Todd Unctuous in the Father Ted Christmas Special, does a great job as the detective who terrorises a confession out of a bemused Gerry.
‘He threatened to shoot my Da! He threatened to shoot my Da!’
Songstress Sinead O’Connor also does a smashing job of singing ‘You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart’ as the credits are rolling. It’s a haunting piece of music written by (for all you pop-pickers out there!) Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer.
I like Beatie Edney too as Carole Richardson, and the woman who plays ‘my Auntie Annie.’ Unfortunately, I can’t find a name for her but she’s perfect for the role. Brisk, no-nonsense and appropriately sceptical of Gerry’s and Paul’s immature, irresponsible behaviour, she’s exactly the kind of Auntie everyone should have, haha.
Carole Richardson, to Gerry, in the squat as she goes through his suitcase: ‘He’s got dead pig in here!’
Gerry: ‘Whaaat? Them? They’re just a few sausages for my Auntie Annie!’
Bringing sausages, rashers of bacon and teabags to relatives abroad is a particularly Irish thing to do. Apparently, a load of Irish people have smuggled sausages abroad in their luggage. They’re items that we Irish set a lot of store by, see? A nice fried breakfast and a cup of tea and all your problems are halfway to being solved.
Anyway, this film is a wonderful piece of film-making, despite the few ‘tweaks’ that were apparently made to the facts! Based on Gerry Conlon’s book, it’s naturally a film that’s sympathetic to Gerry and his co-accused, and the British police are portrayed as either brutal thugs or rich, cold and uncaring snobs who just want to draw a line under a particularly unpleasant crime. Check out the title cards at the end of the film which tell us what happened to everyone after the case finally ended. You might be surprised by some of what you read.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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