Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 289 - In the Name of the Father

In the Name of the Father (1993) directed by Jim Sheridan

Every now and then we will hear heartbreaking and uplifting stories of people falsely imprisoned of crimes they didn't commit and their fight for freedom. Sometime down the road, perhaps even decades later, they are freed and movies are made of their stories. But these are just the stories that we know about; just think of all the people who are not able to prove their innocence and spend the rest of their lives in prison. It is a harrowing and depressing thought.

In the Name of the Father tells the (mostly) true story of Gerry Conlon, wrongly accused of an IRA bombing of of a pub in 1974. He, along with his friends known as the Guildford Four, were tried and given life sentences, spending fifteen years in prison before their cases were finally overturned. Perhaps even more tragic is the collateral damage to Conlon's family. Gerry's aunt, cousins and his father were also imprisoned simply for being associated with him. From the outset the case is pretty sketchy. Facing enormous public pressure to bring the bombers to justice, the police department found Gerry Conlon, a good for nothing Irish drifter who fit the bill perfectly, except for one glaring fact, he didn't do it. The confessions he and his friends signed were forced out of them after seven days of intense brutality and intimidation and the physical evidence was weak at best, but apparently was enough to lock them up.

The film is a powerful story of not only justice, but also the complicated relationship Gerry has with his father Guiseppe. Gerry is an angry and troubled youth who spends much of his life in contrast to his honest and hardworking father. The two share the same cell which ironically and expectedly brings them closer together than they ever were. Yet it takes a long time for Gerry to open his heart to Guiseppe's faith and for his fight for freedom. Eventually Gerry learns from his father and is the one who leads the charge for justice. In many ways this is a father-son film first and prison story second.

At the center of In the Name of the Father is Daniel Day-Lewis's powerful performance as Gerry Conlon. As I mentioned in my post about My Left Foot, also directed by Jim Sheridan, I think Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the very best actors around. Pete Postlethwaite is good as Guiseppe and Emma Thompson rounds up the cast as the lawyer who works their case. Overall it is a powerful and touching story, not just because Gerry finally becomes a free man but also for the moments between him and his father.

Grade: A-

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