Portrait of the artist: James Joyce (McGregor) struggles with everything, from his emerging career to his wife's stong-mindedness.
dir Pat Murphy
scr Pat Murphy, Gerard Stembridge
with Ewan McGregor, Susan Lynch, Peter McDonald, Roberto Citran, Adein Moloney, Ignazio Oliva, Franco Trevisi, Daragh Kelly, Alan Devine, Pauline McLynn, Monica Scattini, Stefania Montorsi
00/Ireland-Italy 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Based on Brenda Maddox's biography, Nora traces the romance between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle from their meeting in 1904 through their years in Trieste, two children and Joyce's struggling, emerging literary career. It's a beautifully made film with sharp attention to detail and a refusal to resort to artist-movie cliches, even if it also refuses to really get under the skin of its main characters.

After running away from her home in Galway, Nora (Lynch) is working as a hotel maid in Dublin when she meets Jim (McGregor). The two are immediately smitten, and despite the cultural divide between them, they stick together, eventually running off to Trieste to start again. And starting again seems to be a recurring theme, as their relationship dips and bumps through Joyce's jealousies and artistic compulsions and Nora's feisty blend of dependence and self-determination.

Lynch and McGregor are superb in the roles, lifting the film far above the usual reverential bio-pic to create characters with real spark and life. It's especially nice to see such a respected figure portrayed on-screen with real-life struggles, lusts and flaws that don't diminish his genius at all. And in a vast range of tiny roles, the supporting cast adds layers of meaning and texture. The frustration is that, even while James and Nora are fascinating, their back stories remain fuzzy and their sudden, repetitive actions and reactions are a bit infuriating. On the other hand, the lovely production design, insightful script and superb cast all combine to make this a compelling and quite moving film romance. And if you want to understand the real people, read the books.

[15--adult themes and situations, language, nudity] 16.May.00
UK release 19.May.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall