Jimmy’s Hall (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 15, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Jimmy’s Hall” is a fascinating story of one man’s determination and the perseverance of many to ensure they have a place to meet and dance. But the conflicts that arise when Gralton’s influence challenges traditional ways of thinking. A fascinating film based on a true story , Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” is recommended!
TITLE: Jimmy’s Hall
FILM RELEASE: 2014
DURATION: 109 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio), English, Gtrnvh 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (Language and a Scene of Violence)
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Directed by Ken Loach
Screenplay by Paul Laverty
Play by Donal O’Kelly
Executive Producers: Pascal Caucheteux, Andrew Lowe, Vincent Maraval, Gregoire Soriat
Produced by Rebecca O’Brien
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography by Robbie Ryan
Edited by Jonathan Morris
Casting by Kahleen Crawford
Production Design by Fergus Clegg
Art Direction by Stephen Daly
Costume Design by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh
Barry Ward as James Gralton
Francis Magee as Mossie
Aileen Henry as Alice
Simone Kirby as Oonagh
Stella McGirl as Stella
Sorcha Fox as Molly
Martin Lucey as Dessie
Mikel Murfi as Tommy
Shane O’Brien as Finn
Denise Gough as Tess
Jim Norton as Father Sheridan
Aisling Franciosi as Marie
In 1921, Jimmy Gralton’s sin was to build a dance hall on a rural crossroads in Ireland on the brink of Civil War. Young people could come to the hall to learn, to argue, to dream . . . but above all to dance and have fun. As the hall grew in popularity, its socialist and free-spirited reputation brought it to the attention of the church and politicians, who forced Jimmy to flee and the hall to close. A decade later, as Jimmy reintegrates into the community and sees the poverty and growing cultural oppression, the leader and activist within him is stirred. He makes the decision to reopen the hall in the face of whatever trouble it may bring.
In the 1933, James Gralton became the first Irish to be deported from his own country and sent to the United States for leading public protests of the Revolutionary Workers’ Group of Leitrim (a predecessor of the Communist Party of Ireland).
He was also the owner that ran a dance hall in Effrinagh, which went against the Catholic priests and he and anyone who took part in the dances were branded as anti-Christ.
His story would be the basis of the film “Jimmy’s Hall” directed by Ken Loach (“Sweet Sixteen”, “Kes”, “Angel’s Share”) and a screenplay by Paul Laverty (“Sweet Sixteen”, “Even the Rain”, “Angel’s Share”).
The film stars Barry Ward (“Watchmen”, “The Claim”, “Lip Service”), Simone Kirby (“Season of the Witch”, “Notes on Blindess”, “Hamlet”), Francis Magee (“Layer Cake”, “Sahara”, “House of Anubis”) and many more.
The film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics on November 2015.
The story begins with the return of Jimmy Gralton (played by Barry Ward) returning to Ireland to help his mother run a family farm.
Known for being mischievous when he was younger, having lived in the United States for the last ten years, he wants to be a better person.
But times have changed in Ireland as a new government is in power in Ireland, ten years after the end of the Civil War.
While back in County Leitrim, the youth of the area want Jimmy to run a hall. The people will build it but they want a place where people can meet to dance, study or talk.
Seeing the passion that people have in building the hall, Jimmy decides to give it a try. Immediately, the hall becomes popular as dance lessons are held, meetings are held but to the ire of the Church and local landowners.
Seeing Jimmy as the source of the problems and his history and involvement with the republican movement (which many brand him a communist), anyone who partakes in dancing at the hall will be branded as anti-Christ and against Irish culture (as Jimmy brought over American jazz music via records and a record player from the 1920 and 1930’s to the area, the Church and its patrons looked at his free spirit ways of promoting another country’s pop culture instead of promoting the traditional Irish pop culture as communism and promoting music from “darkest Africa” as troublesome).
But because of his rebellious nature against the Church and members of the community, he begins to receive communist support and while continuing to encourage study and dancing at the hall.
But what steps would the Church and its patrons take to make sure that Jimmy’s hall will close permanently?
“Jimmy’s Hall” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio). The film features a good amount of grain throughout the film. Colors lean more to the cooler side, but for the most part, picture quality and detail are very good on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Jimmy’s Hall” is presented in English, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital. The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and music-driven, which are crystal clear, but you can also hear moments of surround channel usage for environment and ambiance.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.
“Jimmy’s Hall” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary with Barry Ward and Simone Kirby – Audio commentary with actor Barry Ward and actress Simone Kirby.
- Deleted Scenes – (7:33) Featuring six deleted scenes.
- Making of Jimmy’s Hall – (34:45) A featurette about the making of “Jimmy’s Hall” with interviews with screenwriter Paul Laverty, producer Rebecca O’Brien, director Ken Loach and the cast of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Jimmy’s Hall”.
I have to admit that when I first saw the theatrical trailer for “Jimmy’s Hall”, the first thing that I pictured in my mind was a “Footloose” type of film, in which authority was against a group of youngsters dancing.
But having watched the film and learning more about James Gralton, I realized that the film is something more.
Before I get into my review, I just want to say that I’m not an erudite when it comes to Irish history or the conflicts involving the Irish Republican Army. I don’t know how many Irish feel about James Gralton today, so I’m going by what I see in this film.
Watching “Jimmy’s Hall”, my feelings that Irish at the time was a closed society. With James Gralton having lived in the United States, took part in the city life in America and tried to bring that passion of dancing and jazz music to his town, brought conflict with the Church who were strict conservatives and saw any introduction of other cultures as poisoning their traditional way of thinking.
This is nothing new as it has happened in many other countries in which history has shown political tensions due to international trade with other countries and also bringing in people with a background or culture different from their own. This still plays out in today’s modern society as many people are trying to escape their country and bringing concern from the locals of how it would change the dynamics of their country or city.
The same can be applied to James Gralton’s return to his home in the 1930’s. His perspective was different, nor did he follow the church, which at the time, made him different. Because of his activities of living in New York and him playing American jazz music sung by women who were Black, this caused concern with those in the church and anyone who listened to that music would be seen as anti-Christ.
Once again, in some societies and some religious circles, this is still a concern in modern society as some religious groups are against today’s modern pop culture, especially the music.
James Gralton as depicted in the film, didn’t see things that way. He just saw a hall in which people can come and have a fun time by dancing, learning how to dance and also using the hall as a way to have meetings.
The film shows us the conflict between the groups but nothing is more visual than a moment when a father finds out that his daughter was attending dances at the hall, is embarrassed that his daughter’s name was mentioned that he takes her into the family barn in which the teenage girl is whipped multiple times on her back. It was possibly the most shocking scene of the film that you start to favor what James Gralton and those who are involved with the promotion of the hall were doing.
But there is no doubt a respect that you have for a man who stood up for what he believes in. In today’s modern society, the use of social media and any sign of oppression, would always be seen as a negative. But watching this film, one must remember to put themselves in that era in time, and you can see things on both perspectives. James who wanted people to have the freedom to dance and have fun at the hall, while conservatives look at what he is doing with the hall as a way to taint traditional Irish upbringing.
So, I did enjoy this film but also understanding that what James did was quite rebellious for that era. While the film does paint James Gralton as an inspirational leader who had so much to lose (his mother and his newfound love), because it tends to lean towards one side of the story, you have to know that the film may not be balanced and wonder really transpired behind-the-scenes for the country to really deport him. There must be more to the story leading to Gralton’s deportation from Ireland.
As for the Blu-ray review, “Jimmy’s Hall” looks very good on Blu-ray. There is a good amount of grain and there is great detail for closeups. For the most part, picture quality is good, while the lossless soundtrack is more dialogue, music-driven with ambiance showcasing outdoor environments and also the activities in the dance hall. As for special features, there is a solid making of featurette and also audio commentary by the main male and female lead.
Overall, “Jimmy’s Hall” is a fascinating story of one man’s determination and the perseverance of many to ensure they have a place to meet and dance. But the conflicts that arise when Gralton’s influence challenges traditional ways of thinking. A fascinating film based on a true story , Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” is recommended!
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