Well, I’m part Irish and–at least in the US–on the feast of St. Patrick, that’s the part that counts. For me St. Patrick’s day has never been about getting drunk (especially not off green beer… ick) but more about reflecting on my heritage (and eating boiled supper*). As this year’s feast day falls on a Wednesday I suspect most people won’t be out all night closing down an Irish pub. I will be curled up with some potatoes** and a movie. There are a few Irish movies on my to-watch list that look promising (Once and The Wind That Shakes The Barley) and let me suggest five “Irish” films (quotes because, well, one is about Irish-Americans, and only some were actually made in Ireland, and, well, are those enough qualifiers for you?) if you would like to do the same.
The Magdalene Sisters is about what the Irish (well, the Church) used to do to unwed mothers and “fallen women”. It is a heartbreaking commentary on the practice of locking these women up in Magdalene Asylums, away from their families and children, to toil over vats of laundry and piles of ironing. Gosh that sounds depressing. I am terrible at writing compelling synopses. Fun fact: the last Magdalene Asylum in Ireland closed in 1996. Ninteen-ninety-six.
In America is about an Irish immigrant family living in a rundown apartment in Hells Kitchen surrounded by poverty, but here’s the twist – it takes place at the turn of THIS century and is a semi-autobiographical tale told through the eyes of the family’s oldest daughter.
The Quiet Man is full of stereotypes (about men, women, Irish, Americans, priests, drunks), but of all the films starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, it is my favorite. And let’s face it, all the films starring O’Hara and Wayne are FULL of stereotypes, but you just have to make a mental note and get over it and allow yourself to enjoy the wonderful chemistry between them. It’s about an Irish American (Wayne) who returns to Ireland to work his ancestral farm and falls in love with a local spinster (O’Hara). Again, please trust me because I know I fail at writing compelling descriptions, it’s entertaining and sweet and beautiful and funny. I mean, look at this still:
The Secret of Roan Inish is by far my favorite Irish movie. It’s a story about a young girl who believes the story her grandfather tells that her baby brother was taken by the mythical selkies (creatures in the shape of seals who can shed their skins to take human form). The best thing about this film, besides the enchanting Fiona, is the beautiful, sweeping cinematography. If you watch this film and don’t want to move to Ireland to live in a stone cottage and search for selkies, then I don’t want to be your friend.
The Boondock Saints are twin brothers whose particular brand of vigilante justice is sanctioned by God. It is by turns funny, violent, intense, and amazing. Willem Dafoe is fantastic as the FBI agent in charge of finding the brothers. You notice there is an FBI agent in this movie – well, that’s because it takes place in Boston, and the twin vigilantes are Irish American. But this film is just too good not to include in my list.
*Boiled supper is the Irish culinary tradition of cooking meat and vegetables together in one pot. In the US, the meat is usually corned beef, and the veg are usually cabbage and potatoes. The reason Irish Americans usually eat corned beef is it was the cheapest cut of meat available to Irish immigrants, and somehow it became a tradition. Thank goodness the cheapest cut wasn’t something like tongue.
**Because, damn the stereotypes, potatoes are fantastic! And there are so many ways to cook them… the possibilities are endless.
First photo credit from flickr user seminarianvoitus