1993

Film #403: In the Name of the Father (1993)

We move on now to the second collaboration between Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Sheridan which happened for years after My Left Foot. The film was In the Name of the Father in which Day-Lewis played wrongly convicted Gerry Conlon who was thought to be a member of the IRA.


Conlon, along with three others, went on to be known as ‘The Guildford Four’ as they were thought to be responsible for the Guildford Pub Bombings of 1974. Just like My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father is based on an autobiographical story by the lead character who never claims to be perfect. Conlon is a petty thief who, in the midst of the hostilities in Northern Ireland, journeys to London to be part of a free love commune. But he, along with three friends, are wrongly implicated in a bombing that happened nearby and are essentially tortured by the police until they confess. Along with the Guildford Four, seven members of Gerry’s family are arrested as a supposed terror network and all are eventually convicted. Part courtroom drama and part prison film I found In the Name of the Father to primarily be a story about the love between a father and son. Although Gerry occasionally berates his dad Giuseppe, their relationship improves as they share time in prison together. As Giuseppe’s health deteriorates, he calls in a campaign lawyer in an attempt to get an appeal. The lawyer Gareth Peirce is a feisty woman who finds herself bombarded by protocol and red tape until she finally discovers the truth to due to a mistake at the police station. Although it had a somewhat happy ending, In the Name of the Father was a frustrating watch at times as we knew from the start that Gerry and his friends were innocent.

Sheridan is unflinching in his depiction of the brutality inflicted on Gerry by the police and these scenes probably stuck with me the most. The editing and cinematography during these scenes is fantastic and really adds to the character’s sense of disorientation. In the Name of the Father wasn’t a film that I ever felt comfortable watching and instead it made me incredibly angry. Although I knew snippets of the story, watching it in this much detail was really tough. Day-Lewis demonstrates his range throughout the film as Gerry goes from happy-go-lucky thief to riotous prisoner and finally to vindicated victim. The actor constantly lets us know what his character is feeling and as the film progresses you feel even more sympathy for him. Even though Day-Lewis is excellent as always, I felt the best performance in the film came from Pete Postlethwaite as Giuseppe. Postlethwaite portrays Giuseppe as a traditional man who is found guilty purely because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The actor gives a subtle portrayal of a loving father and his descent into illness is just heartbreaking to watch. The always reliable Emma Thompson is great when she’s given a chance to shine as the campaigning Mrs Peirce. In fact I would’ve like to have seen more from Thompson as her majority of screen time is her in a car listening to Gerry’s story on her stereo. The tape recording that Gerry makes for Gareth is a great narrative device and stops the dreaded expositional voiceover from grating too much. Once again Sheridan and Day-Lewis prove they make a fine team as In the Name of the Father was nominated for a mighty seven Oscars even if it didn’t win a single one.

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