Set in 1930s Ireland, Jimmy’s Hall is based on the true story of Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), a maverick young man who upset local religious folk and nay-sayers by building a hall for music, dancing, art, education and general merry-making.
This film paints a bleak picture of Ireland. The grey skies provided scarcely enough light for me to make notes, so expect a short review. The people shovel mud for a living, under the watchful eye of the Catholic Church, and their only joy is Irish dancing, which is basically just confusing walking. Jimmy provides them with a ray of light, but comes under the fire of local Priest, Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), the same guy who played the similarly cantankerous Bishop Brennan in Father Ted.
Unfortunately the oppression of the Catholic Church seeps into the mood of the film, leaving it a sexless, passionless and humourless affair that would pass even the strictest religious censorship. Well, if the Catholics weren’t the bad guys. It’s hindered by its uncharismatic lead and supporting cast of grey-faced nobodies. The best thing in it is Bishop Brennan, who is superb and a thrill to watch, but not enough to carry it.
I couldn’t help but think of Calvary, a film which deals with many of the same issues, in a very similar setting, but does so with wit, style and charm, with an array of fascinating characters and a plot that keeps you guessing throughout. Jimmy’s Hall has good intentions, but struggles to gain momentum, showing that a compelling real-life tale doesn’t necessarily make for a brilliant film.