As previously mentioned, one of two films I bought when visiting Ireland last month was this film. I watched this in college as part of my Film A-Level … I think … maybe Media Studies. One or the other. Point is, I found the video at a car boot sale also and bought it for 50p or something and it became one of about 10 videos I owned. Now it resides with my Mum and Dad in Limerick. The DVD on the other hand sat in my DVD player last night and I completely got involved – whereby at the point that Gareth Pierce (Emma Thompson) passionately argues the Guildford Four’s innocence in a courtroom – revealing evidence that was hidden from the defence during the original trial – I was in tears. I am so proud to feel this way – as someone who watches so many films, who could discuss different styles, approaches and genre cliches, and yet if a film has me I can get emotionally involved, to the point that I cry. The simple case that, as the film showed this crucial moment, I knew that – to some extent or another – this actually happened. There was a point whereby the truth escaped the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven for 15 years and yet, in one trial, it was shown that evidence that proved their innocence was hidden focing them to face decades in prison. Such a powerful film.
What I reckon…
To some extent, this has been summarised above. I love the film – Daniel Day Lewis is – as usual – excellent, portraying such a flawed character. He was a petty thief, a drug user, etc – but he was not a terrorist so it is a testement to Day-Lewis how well he portrayed such a character for us to sympathise with. Pete Postlethwaite playing his father was equally strong, if not more subtle. Guisseppe Conlon (Postlethwaite) was a devout, quiet man – slowly building a campaign for their release while Gerry grew angry and frustrated, understandably, towards the justice system. Their relationship I personally found fascinating – though my Dad could argue pretty damn well with me (nowhere near as reserved as this Father character), he did have the patience and fortitude to think carefully about what to do next in situations and this gave this film a very personal connection with me.
Now, as I got so personally involved, I had to do a bit of research into the credability of the film. I found little – if anything – about it. Nobody seemed to think that it was false or a bad representation except one. Interestingly, the film was shown to MP’s and members of the Conlon family and one of the investigators on the case argued, post-screening, that it was a misrepresentation of the police work conducted (see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/first-night-drama-follows-four-film-screening-in-the-name-of-the-father-committee-room-20-house-of-commons-1391461.html). In response to the film itself and its representation, Gerry Conlon himself stated “English people, English MPs and English church leaders played the lead role in getting me out of prison. It wasn’t Irish people. I would never want to be part of a film that stigmatised a whole nation or a whole police force for the actions of a few.” clearly pointing the blame at the perpetrators and the staff who were content in the crime committed – who have yet to be charged in any way.
Obviously, the spine of the story is Gerry’s innocence – and proving that. We know throughout the film that an appeal is going to court – as Emma Thompsons lawyer listens to a cassette Gerry recorded for the first two acts flashing back to the whole situation and his time in jail prior to his fathers death. Considering the recent commotion regarding the Lockerbie bomber and the compassionate-grounds factored into his release, it makes the lack-of-compassion towards Guisseppe Conlon even more horrendous. Then again, Megrahi has always professed his innocence – and in a similar way to Gerry Conlon, evidence was found by the CIA with regard to the timer in the Lockerbie bombing that was deemed ‘vital evidence’ and was withheld from the trial defence team. Witnesses were paid and, a statement by Professor Robert Black QC explains “that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction”. This makes this film that much more relevant and powerful. Other factors not explored in the ilm, was another part of the case whereby Paul Hill (played by Sliding Doors cheating-boyfriend of Paltrow John Lynch … who, to be honest, I always thought was cooler than Beatles-and-Monty-Python-quoting John Hannah character) and Paddy were additionally convicted – and then charges dropped following an appeal – of the Woolwich bombing. In a quirky turn of fate, Paul Hill married the daughter of Robert Kennedy (brother of recently-deceased Edward Kennedy and deceased-President John F. Kennedy). Through this contact, while as Prime Minister, Tony Blair apologised to Paul and the Guildford Four for a miscarriage of justice.
I was in a Camden music shop (the exchange one on Chalk Farm road) and saw that they had a copy of the single ‘In The Name of the Father’ by Bono and Gavin Friday. I have to admit, after watching the movie and hearing the title-song, I am quite keen to purchase it – though I wouldn’t buy the soundtrack itself as there were also some awful panpies on the soundtrack that, in my opinion, ruined the sequence post-Guisseppe’s death whereby the prisoners dropped burning paper from the prison walls. It looked stunning – well done Jim Sheridan – but the music simply didn’t work, which is annoying because in most of the other sections it remains exceptional.
To finish, I was not suprised to learn that it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Lead Actor amongst other many other Oscars. It lost out on the Best Picture to Schindlers List. Fair enough. Tough Year I guess. Remains of the Day and The Piano were the same year. I couldn’t recommend this more – truly is a great film about a truly fascinating story.