Jimmy's Hall: DVD Review
Released by Vendetta and Rialto
Against a backdrop of images of workers in old New York and a jazzy old school wartime soundtrack, comes Brit miserabilist Ken Loach's latest.
Set in Ireland in 1932, Barry Ward is Jimmy Gralton - who divided a small community when he built a dance hall nearly a decade ago. Forced out, he went to New York but returns to Ireland "not the same man that went away" and determined to live out a quiet life.
However, urged by the kids who are blessed with wanderlust and boredom, he restarts the hall up only to find his plans pushing him into direct conflict with the Church (in the form of Father Ted's Bishop Brennan actor Jim Norton )
There's a quietly reflective tone to Jimmy's Hall, but it wafts as lightly as a flower on a summer breeze. It's pleasant to look at but is distinctly unmemorable as it goes on. Ward is fine, but lacks any real edge during the genuinely heartfelt drama. Even the conflict with the Church seems tame by comparison and the mournful tone against the lush verdant green backdrops of Ireland proves to be an odd mix that never really fires up.
While there's a vibrancy and energy to the dance hall scenes, they only really ever serve to highlight the fact that that is missing throughout the rest of this piece, which seems remarkably toothless by Loach's standards.
Coupled with the fact this battle for hearts and minds through dance and against the church ethos is never anything but black and white. The church is firmly in the wrong and Jimmy's a hero to all, albeit one that never really serves to light the fires of passion for those watching.
While Loach may be mellowing (see the brilliant The Angels Share for proof of that), his touch on this true story is too slight to be anything as engaging as it should be.