There’s nothing like a great character drama, and better yet when it is a true story. Jimmy’s Hall is the story of Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), an Irishman in 1932 who returns to his native Ireland after 10 years in the United States to help his aging mother run the family farm. Immediately upon his arrival in his village, the youth ask him to reopen ‘The Hall’, a place Jimmy was previously known for that served as a free community centre for townsfolk to dance, study or socialize. But the local church and landowners don’t like Jimmy’s Western thinking and radical ideas and will stop at nothing to close the hall once and for all. And at any cost.
Jimmy’s Hall is one of those great ‘regional’ dramas; stories that take place in a small area and concern a very specific group of people. Many times these types of films revolve around one family, or one staff at a workplace. In this case it is a small Irish village. The first thing that hit me about Jimmy’s Hall was its authenticity. You never feel like you are watching actors in a movie, you feel more like you have been given a look into people’s lives secretly.
The entire cast is phenomenal and all feel genuine and heartfelt. Especially Barry Ward. The entire movie I kept trying to place the actor as I thought I knew him, his face, from possibly multiple other films. He was instantly familiar. But after looking him up I discovered I had never seen him in anything. That is truly a testament to his acting ability. The story of Jimmy’s Hall is as compelling as the cast. Looking at the story from our current world is almost unbelievable. A bunch of people, young people and old, want a place to gather, be with each other, dance, teach kids to box, sing, hang out. And just because someone who was living in America runs this place, the church and landowners (also very religious people) are all, sometimes violently, opposed to the hall even existing. I just couldn’t comprehend it. And all in the name of God even. Jimmy’s Hall is an engaging, entertaining, heartwarming, beautiful and sometimes disturbing film. Highly recommended.