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Jimmy's Hall, film review: Ken Loach's film encapsulates a career's worth of social concerns

(12A) Dir. Ken Loach; Starring Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, 109mins

Laurence Phelan
Thursday 29 May 2014 18:06 BST
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Local hero: Barry Ward and Simone Kirby star in 'Jimmy's Hall'
Local hero: Barry Ward and Simone Kirby star in 'Jimmy's Hall'

The hall of the title is a community-run combined youth club, free school and dance club in early-Thirties County Leitrim in Ireland, and the Jimmy is Jimmy Galton (Barry Ward), its trustees' unofficial spokesman.

To the people who just want a place in which to come together, to paint, to play and dance to music, and to forget about the misery and the divisions of the recent civil war, Jimmy is a local hero. But to the ruling class of land-owners, politicians and Church leaders, he is a dangerous communist and a rabble-rouser.

This dialectic – the conflict between those who only want to dance, and those conservative forces who would seek to repress them – is a familiar one. It's basically the plot of Flashdance, for one thing.

But while Jimmy's Hall is not one of Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty's most sophisticated stories, it does very neatly encapsulate a career's worth of social concerns. And while its depiction of 1930s rural Irish life seems a mite more picturesque than it does lived in, the scenes in which characters air their grievances and debate their communal response, as ever in Loach's films, are full of urgency and hope and life.

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