Ken Loach’s documenting of the story of Jimmy Gralton, who in 1933 was the last person deported from Ireland.
Jimmy had emigrated to America in 1909 and became a US citizen but he returned to Ireland to fight in the War for Independence in 1919. After the truce was declared in 1921, the pro-treaty forces won out, and Civil War then broke out among the Irish.
Jimmy returned to America after the war but returned in 1932 to look after his mother. This is where the movie begins.
Jimmy started working on the family farm. The local kids ask Jimmy to open a hall he used to have where the kids can meet, study, dance and talk. Jimmy and some of his friends begin work to get the building in shape. The Hall will have music, dance, art, Irish language instruction and boxing classes.
The local priests aren’t thrilled. With the creation of the Hall they will lose some of their control over the people.A priest comes to the Hall and tells Jimmy he can’t run classes without the Church’s permission. He calls Jimmy a Communist.
Jimmy gets involved with some local land disputes and runs in to trouble wit the local police. The police then come in to the Hall and kick everyone out. Jimmy decides he is going to have to head back to the States.
But Jimmy stays and then he introduces American jazz music to the Hall.
The priests begin to worry about Jimmy spreading Communist ideals. They feel that the Hall will start with the dancing and then start introducing dangerous books. The priests and their followers begin to write down the names of the people going to the Hall to dance.
The priest begins lecturing to the parishioners at Mass. He tells them that Cromwell tried to take away their culture, and now they are voluntarily letting another culture in to try to change their songs and dance. The priest says: “Jazz music. Rhythms from the darkest Africa that inflame the passions.” He says that Gralton and his crew are communists and atheists. He gives then a choice: “Is it Christ or is it Gralton?” He reads out the names of the people who attended the dance at the Hall the night before.
The world is going through a depression and there is great poverty in the country. people are being thrown off their land. Jimmy and his want to help the people but the landowners are allied with the Church.
Jimmy begins talking to crowds about the rights of the people. The next thing you know shots are fired at the Hall and then it is burned down.
The police come to arrest Jimmy and are going to deport him as as an illegal alien. But Jimmy escapes and hides out in the country.
The movie was well done and I think it tried to show both sides of the issue, even though we know where Ken Loach’s sympathies are. He didn’t resort to adding dramatic effect, but chose to portray things pretty straight. I think he goes out of his way to present the priest as a decent, intelligent man.
An interesting movie that will have some people agreeing with Jimmy, and some with the government, depending on the politics that they carry in to the theater with them.