A version of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day movie recommendations list appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Irish movies set a St. Patrick’s Day mood
Column: From children’s fare to enthralling drama, serve up these cinematic treats on Sunday, when everyone gets to be Irish.
On Sunday, everyone gets to be Irish. Or at least they can watch a movie that gets their eyes smiling, no matter what their heritage or nationality.
Aye, Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day, and if you’re looking for a tasty cinematic treat to go with your corned beef, cabbage and pint of not-so-green stout, consider these options, which range from children’s fare to old classics to enthralling drama.
- “The Shore” (2011)
It may run less than half an hour, but “The Shore” boasts ample amounts of heart. In fact, the live-action short film won writer-director Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) his first Oscar back in 2012.
In “The Shore,” well-known character actor Ciaran Hinds takes the starring role of an Irish-American father who takes his grown daughter (Kerry Condon) on a pilgrimage to his boyhood home near Belfast. But returning to his roots means finally facing the best friend (Conleth Hill) and the lover (Maggie Cronin) he left behind.
- “Into the West” (1992)
Acclaimed Irish writer Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” “In America” and more films that also would make excellent St. Patty’s Day viewing) and respected English director Mike Newell (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) create a lovely family fantasy about two young boys, Tayto (Rúaidhrí Conroy) and Ossie (Ciarán Fitzgerald), whose father (Gabriel Byrne) was once “King of the Travellers,” or Irish gypsies, until their mother died during Ossie’s birth. Papa has since become an alcoholic and moved the children to a flat in Dublin, where he gets them to run small cons to get by.
When the boys’ grandfather (David Kelly) comes to visit, he is followed by a beautiful white horse called Tír na nÓg (meaning “Land of Eternal Youth” in Irish) that he first encountered at the seashore. The children form a close, mystical bond with the horse, but when a crooked policeman (Brendan Gleeson) schemes to steal the fine steed, the boys end up on the run astride Tír na nÓg, who seems to have a specific destination in mind.
- “The Secret of Kells” (2009)
This Oscar-nominated Irish indie is more than just a hand-drawn animated adventure. It is high art. Every scene resembles a finely rendered painting in the distinctive pre-Renaissance style. The story restores some of the mystery and magic to animated adventures, eschewing the usual silly pratfalls and pop-culture gags common in modern family fare.
In ninth-century Ireland, young Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) has grown up inside the walls surrounding the out-of-the-way abbey of Kells. When Viking invaders ravage the island of Iona, one monk, a famed illuminator named Aidan (Mick Lally), flees to Kells bearing the half-finished sacred book he and his brothers labored on for many years. The aging Aidan recruits Brendan to help him work on the manuscript, which will become known as the famed Book of Kells. While looking for special berries to make ink, Brendan encounters Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mercurial shape-shifting sprite who protects the forest.
- “The Quiet Man” (1952)
Legendary director John Ford won the last of his record four Oscars for this romantic comedy-drama, which also earned an Academy Award for best color cinematography. Additionally, it was nominated for best picture, best screenplay, best color art/set direction, best sound recording and best supporting actor for Victor McLaglen. It also is one of my all-time favorite movies.
Devastated by a tragedy inside the ring, Irish-born and American-bred boxer Sean Thornton (Ford fave John Wayne) is looking for peace when he moves from Pittsburgh to his birthplace, the tiny village of Innisfree. Instead, he falls in love with fiery redhead Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), who has been relegated to spinsterhood because her bullying brother, Squire “Red” Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) has staunchily refused to pay the traditional dowry.
- “Once” (2007)
“Once” deserved and won the best original song Oscar in 2008 for “Falling Slowly,” plus the new stage adaptation has earned Tony, Grammy and Drama Desk honors in the past year. The modern-day musical tells a simple but memorable story that is refreshingly free of cliches. It centers on the guy (The Frames’ frontman Glen Hansard), a street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman, who meets the girl (Marketa Irglova), an Eastern European immigrant who has left her husband and works as a domestic to support her mother and young daughter. But she also is a classically trained pianist, who keeps in top form by practicing in a local music shop.
They make beautiful music together, but will their relationship become romance?
- “Circle of Friends” (1995)
Another bittersweet romance from the Emerald Isle, “Circle of Friends” is set in 1950s Ireland and provided a breakout role for then-newcomer Minnie Driver. The story focuses on Benny (Driver), a somewhat plump, plain-looking young woman attending university in Dublin. She meets and quickly falls for Jack (Chris O’Donnell), a handsome star of the university’s rugby team, and he surprisingly reciprocates her glowing affection.
- “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (1959)
In this live-action Disney classic, storyteller Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) captures King Brian (Jimmy O’Dea), the ruler of the leprechauns. Along with holding on to the wily leprechaun, Darby must get the pint-sized royal to grant him three wishes. The film stars a young and singing Sean Connery.
- “Far and Away” (1992)
Duncan-born director Ron Howard offers a sweeping, old-fashioned epic that appeals to both my Irish side (I’m Irish by marriage, if the last name didn’t give that away) and my Oklahoma heritage. A hotheaded young Irishman (Tom Cruise) leaves the Emerald Isle with his landlord’s rebellious daughter (Nicole Kidman) to pursue the promise of free land in the 1893 land run in present-day Oklahoma.
- “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (2006)
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this harrowing drama is set in 1920 during the early days of the Irish Republican Army, when British occupation caused many Irishmen to take up arms. Witnessing the oppression, Damien (Cillian Murphy) abandons his promising career as a doctor and becomes a force in an IRA division led by his brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney).
The two brothers fight side by side until a truce is signed. One faction of the freedom fighters accepts the treaty with the British but the other faction deems it unfair, prompting a civil war that pits Teddy against Damien.