The story of Irish folk hero James Gralton is not known to most of us. After more than two decades in America, Gralton (Barry Ward) comes back to Effrinagh, County Leitrim in Ireland, mainly to take care of his mother (Aileen Henry). Before he left in 1909, Gralton built and ran the Pearse-Connolly hall. Today it would be called a community centre. People came to the hall for courses and to talk about politics. And they came to dance. But Gralton ran into Catholic priest Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) who called him a communist (and he was, or at the very least got involved in the communist cause because of what he witness, like a lot of people) and successfully used his powers to close the hall. When he comes back in 1932, there is a demand from young people to reopen the hall. He also reconnects with his old flame, Oonagh (Simone Kirby), who is now married with kids. The hall re-opens and Father Sheridan stands with other parishioners outside taking down the names of people going to the dance. At Sunday mass, Sheridan reads their names out and denounces them. He particularly points out the American jazz that Gralton brought back. One young lady gets violently beaten by her father. These were different times and the hold of the church was mighty. There is no way for me to verify if the events portrayed are accurate, but Jimmy’s hall sounds and looks real. For sure, legendary British filmmaker Ken Loach wears his politics on his sleeves and the screenplay can be a bit manipulative. All the actors are good, and Jim Norton as Father Sheridan makes your skin scrawl without overplaying it. The love affair between Jimmy and Oonagh is sweetly romantic. That and the Irish landscapes are rendered through the soft lens of cinematographer Robbie Ryan. Although they dance to jazz, the best moments are the ones with the Irish folk dances with toe tapping Irish folk music.
Based on the play by Donal O’Kelly
Rated Parental Guidance