Jimmy’s Hall Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Aisling Franciosi, Karl Geary, Conor McDermottroe, Denise Gough, Mikel Murfi
  • Director: Ken Loach
  • Producers: Rebecca O'Brien
  • Format: Blu-ray, AC-3, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Dubbed: French
  • Audio Description: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Release Date: November 17, 2015
  • Run Time: 109 minutes

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            Some films based on a true story are banking on the unbelievable nature of the narrative, whereas Jimmy’s Hall has a screenplay that never hits an unexpected note. Even at the peak of the story’s excitement, the volume of the action remains subdued enough to remain tied to realism above all else. While this may make for accurate storytelling, it does little for the excitement of the entertainment. Though director Ken Loach is able to accurately capture the feel of the period and place in Jimmy’s Hall, this attention to detail does little to improve the thin narrative and underdeveloped characters in Paul Laverty’s screenplay.

     


            Taking place at two different periods of time, Jimmy’s Hall allows the same conflict to repeat itself. First, we watch as left-wing idealist Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) uses his own money to open a community hall in 1921 rural Ireland, intending it to be a place for entertainment, education, and fellowship. This is seen as a direct attack on the ideals that the Catholic Church and local politicians are attempting to uphold, and Jimmy is run out of town with a few threats and accusations. After spending a decade abroad in the United States, Jimmy returns home to find the community still longing for the memory of what Jimmy’s hall could have been.

     

            Despite the passage of time, the conflict between Jimmy and the local priest, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), quickly starts up again. Having just endured a painful Civil War, Sheridan believes that the community needs to celebrate Irish culture rather than listening to the jazz music that Jimmy brought with him from his time in America. But the disagreement is about much more than just taste in music or cultural pride, otherwise this film would have merely been a Depression-era Irish Footloose. In reality, this is a film that is much more about politics and endless scenes discussing opposing viewpoints and ideals, with music choice merely being an easy target for those in opposition to Jimmy’s socialist views.

     

            The plot itself isn’t the problem, setting the narrative up with necessary conflict that is subsequently failed by a screenplay with no clear story arc or climactic point of action. Everything is kept so subtle and subdued that the stakes of the drama slip away with the run-time, like air escaping from a balloon. Aspects of the filmmaking are still distinctly Ken Loach (including indecipherably thick accents), but Jimmy’s Hall is ultimately a minor work from a filmmaker nearing the end of a rich career. Had he been less successful in the past, perhaps this film would have seemed less disappointing. On the other hand, made by another filmmaker, this same material may have been approached with far less attention to detail and realism.

     

            The Blu-ray special features include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and a commentary track with lead actors Barry Ward and Simone Kirby. The high definition is not entirely necessary for this film; however spectacular the setting of the film may be for rich photography, this is clearly not the focus of Loach’s vision for the narrative.

     

    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  5/10

    Special Features: 6/10




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