Emirates British Film Festival Review: Jimmy’s Hall (UK, 2014)


By Alexandra Donald

Jimmy’s Hall, the latest from veteran filmmaker Ken Loach, is a stately portrait of a struggle for justice that’s a delicately executed, picturesque film and a charming watch – if not a particularly memorable one.

Based on the life of Irish political activist Jimmy Gralton, the film charts the titular character’s return to his home county after a decade’s exile in New York. The hospitable townspeople welcome him back with open arms, and implore him to reopen the hall that brought so much joy to the community before his departure. The hall is returned to its former glory – as a place of learning, celebration and camaraderie – but Jimmy’s quest for a more peaceful existence for his family and friends is met with vocal opposition from the straight laced clergymen.

This simple and very human story is brought to life with the utmost tenderness by Ken Loach – covering similar territory to much of his previous work, he asks us whether individual freedom is ever possible within the confines of a political system – and while the film only occasionally veers into the darker territory that gives this question any urgency, Jimmy’s Hall is a charming portrait of small town politics that’s easy to swallow.

Leitram County is a perfect setting for such a story – the lush green surroundings are at odds with an atmosphere thick with melancholy. The political climate has rendered any secular freedoms completely unacceptable, and it’s taken its toll on the town’s people. Jimmy’s second coming is as good as Jesus’ resurrection – and the renewed purpose felt in the lives of everyone who frequents the hall is executed perfectly in the film’s great performances. The film follows the quest for freedom through its emotional highs and lows – such as when Jimmy and long lost sweetheart Oona wordlessly dance together one night in the hall, or when a father savagely whips his daughter for daring to visit the hall. But Jimmy’s Hall isn’t concerned with plotting or with overly emotional events – it’s a quiet ode to a small town, but it’s a little too unassuming to be truly memorable.

Despite this, Jimmy’s Hall is charming film about a community in crisis will surely tug at your heartstrings at least once within its short and sweet runtime – and that makes visiting this film completely worthwhile.



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