Jimmy’s Hall, first look Cannes review: One of Ken Loach's sunniest films yet
Early 1930s Ireland is recreated in best Hovis ad fashion
Jimmy’s Hall is is one of the sunniest, most optimistic films in the Ken Loach canon. It has some typically bleak elements - families evicted from their cottages by ruthless landowners, class warfare, deportations, domestic violence - and yet it shows the 77-year-old British director’s faith in a younger generation’s ability to overturn its parents’ mistakes.
The story is largely set in 1932/33, a decade after the Irish Civil War whose scars are yet fully to heal. Communist activist James Gralton (Barry Ward) has just returned home to Ireland after many years in exile in New York.
With encouragement from the local youngsters, he agrees to re-open the Pearse-Connolly Hall. The hall hosts wild parties, art lessons, literary discussions, poetry readings and political debate. A place to “think, laugh and dance,” it brings out the best in the community, providing focus, entertainment and educational opportunities at a time of huge unemployment.
The hitch is that the landowners and the Catholic Church thoroughly disapprove. They fear Jimmy because he is undermining their influence and authority. They don’t like his left wing politics. He listens to ungodly American jazz - Bix Beiderbecke and Bessie Smith - another reason why they distrust him so much.
Early 1930s Ireland is recreated in best Hovis ad fashion. Rugged rural landscapes are inhabited by characters in flat caps and tweed jackets. There is something faintly preposterous about the idealised way in which Jimmy's mother is portrayed. She is homely and courageous - and always ready with a pot of tea, even when the visitors are police officers come to arrest her son.
At times, the dialogue lapses into political speechifying. Paul Laverty's screenplay isn't subtle. Jimmy, very attractively played by Ward, is a good natured folk hero. The priests and landowners are callous, cruel and akin to pantomime villains.
The romantic subplot exploring Jimmy's relationship with Oonagh (Simone Kirby), the sweetheart he was forced to abandon when he headed to New York, is handled tentatively. After all, she has married someone else - and folk heroes like Jimmy don’t break up other people’s relationships.
The ensemble cast in Ken Loach's Jimmy's Hall
The most complex figure is Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), the parish priest. In theory, the Father abhors Jimmy and his hall. In practice, he admires his courage and his commitment to the community. He is both Jimmy’s nemesis and his most unlikely fan.
Loach is sometimes regarded as a dour filmmaker, a social realist who puts polemics in front of entertainment. In fact, right from the start of his career, he has always had a flair for comic observation.
It is hard to forget Brian Glover’s teacher in Kes (1969), presiding over one of the most chaotic football matches in cinema history or the kids heading to the Highlands to steal malt whisky in The Angels’ Share (2012).
Jimmy’s Hall has plenty of wry humour and carnivalesque crowd scenes. In particular, there is one tremendous, Fellini-like scene in which all the youngsters in the community take to their bikes to protest against the treatment of Jimmy.
Aspects of Jimmy’s Hall don’t add up. The film ends abruptly. Certain key relationships aren’t explained or explored in any depth. Even so, Loach’s affection and respect for his characters is self-evident and he tells Jimmy’s story in a sprightly and very engaging way.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark finale review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Avengers: Age of Ultron: Nearly 700 German cinemas refuse to show movie
The Visit: Watch terrifying trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3 - review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton, really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia