Cast:

Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Jim Norton, Andrew Scott

Director:

Ken Loach

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Running time:

109 mins

Rating:

M Violence and offensive language

Verdict: Fitting swansong

Director Ken Loach, now 78, announced during the making of this modest but moving historical drama that it would be his last film, though there have been later suggestions of a change of heart.

If it were his swansong, it would be a fitting one for the English-speaking cinema's doyen of social-realism: a handsomely mounted, yet modest and precise piece of work that unearths a little-known true story of injustice and reminds us all of how the present is always in the shadow of the past.

The title character is Jimmy Gralton (Ward), who became, in 1933, the only Irishman ever deported from his homeland.

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As the film opens, he is returning from a decade abroad - he left before the bloody war of independence (which Loach brought to life for 2006's Cannes winner The Wind That Shakes The Barley) - and during that time he's picked up some political viewpoints that don't go down too well with the hidebound hierarchies in his native County Leitrim.

His plan to reopen the local community hall where young people had met to study, socialise and (horror!) dance, brings him into a head-on collision with the landowners and the church (the "masters and the pastors" someone calls them) . "What is this craze for pleasure?" thunders the local priest, railing against "the Los Angelisation of Ireland".

Like Barley and like the Spanish Civil War picture Land and Freedom from the 90s, this one has a few too many lines with the flavour of dialectical argument: politics always bubbles beneath the surface of a Loach film but the story can get crowded out.

But it's kept afloat by handsome cinematography, which uses the land's deep green and the milky light gorgeously, and some great performances (Norton and Scott as priests who don't see eye to eye; Kirby as Oonagh, Jimmy's not-forgotten love). Lovely.

- TimeOut