Silent Grace
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Silent Grace This fascinating film shines the light on an under-reported side of the 1980 hunger strike in Northern Ireland. It's more than a little rough around the edges, but its story and message are too important to be dismissed. Aine Quinn (Bradley) is an outspoken wild child whose flippancy gets her sent to the grim Armagh Women's Prison, where she's housed in a medieval wing with IRA inmates in the midst of a "dirty protest" against Margaret Thatcher, who's stripped them of political prisoner status. As Aine becomes sympathetic to their cause, she befriends the fragile Geraldine (Bradfield), the tough-minded Margaret (Seymour) and especially the group's fiery leader Eileen (Brady), who has communication links through the prison's governor (Mullen) and priest (Newman). Then Eileen decides to join the male IRA prisoners in their hunger strike.

Filmed in Dublin's historic Kilmainham Prison, there's an authenticity to this film that disarms most criticism. The basic problem is that the production and editing are theatrical and slightly amateurish, shying away from putting more difficult imagery on screen (violence? sex?). These under-explained actions and histories make it hard to get into the minds of the characters, although the performances are strong and provocative. Brady's Eileen is terrifically sympathetic. Her past is kept fairly mysterious, but her tenacity shows, and Brady avoids both shallow heroism and cheesy vilification. Meanwhile, Bradley's Aine is such a bundle of nerves that it takes us a long time to warm to her--a brave move for what's essentially the audience's point of identification with the entire film! But the effort is worth it, and by the end we come to understand Aine in a much more complex, interesting way. The interrelationships between the women and with governor and priest are also fascinating, as are the rumours and reports of life outside, which we never see besides a few golden-hued flashbacks. And even if the film stumbles in its somewhat heavy-handed approach as well as a refusal to fill in some gaping holes, it's still a great story that needs to be told.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Nov.03

dir-scr Maeve Murphy
with Cathleen Bradley, Orla Brady, Robert Newman, Conor Mullen, Cara Seymour, Dawn Bradfield, Patrick Bergin, Carol Moore, Marc O'Shea, Dean Prichard, Christian McCashin, Sarah Boyd-Wilson
release UK 13.Feb.04
03/Ireland 1h26

Hunger strike: Bradley and Brady...

newman bergin

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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