Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Ireland/United Kingdom, 1990. Granada Television, Noel Pearson, Sovereign Pictures. Screenplay by Jim Sheridan, based on the play by John B. Keane. Cinematography by Jack Conroy. Produced by Noel Pearson. Music by Elmer Bernstein. Production Design by Frank Conway. Costume Design by Joan Bergin. Film Editing by J. Patrick Duffner. Academy Awards 1990. Golden Globe Awards 1990.
Exceptional drama based on the play by John B. Keane, and Jim Sheridan’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning My Left Foot. Richard Harris is superb as “Bull” McCabe, whose family has been farming a gorgeous, grassy field for generations, its lustrous green colour the result of their lugging seaweed from the ocean and using it to fertilize. When the widow who owns the plot decides to sell the field and go back to her own people, Harris attends the public auction to buy it with the confidence that none of his fellow townspeople will try to outdo him. Unfortunately, an American visitor (Tom Berenger) has arrived with the hopes of building a concrete highway over the field, and his big dollars end up being a match for Harris and propel the drama towards disastrous results. Plays and films about the destructive effect that the modern world has had on the beautifully pastoral life of Ireland in the twentieth century are not hard to find (Dancing At Lughnasa is an example that springs to mind immediately), and this one’s allegory isn’t exactly subtle. Even taking in its well-worn cliches, however, right down to the village idiot played by John Hurt (effectively filling in for John Mills in Ryan’s Daughter), this is a marvelous drama worthy of Yeats, captivating from beginning to end, not the least because of Harris’ performance and Brenda Fricker and Sean Bean backing him up effectively as his family.