The Boys and Girl From County Clare was an interesting and action-packed movie with an attention to detail, fashion, and atmosphere. Seeing the old cars and the damp, cloudy landscape evocative of Ireland added to the mood of this movie, as did the fact that there was an effort to costume at least some of the male characters in wide lapels and shirts with long color points, as well as giving them haircuts and facial hair configurations consistent with the period.
It was a little unsettling to see Colm Meaney with a mustache, though, as I tend to think of him as the sort of family man he played on the Star Trek Deeps Space Nine series. It is even more unsettling to discover that the character he plays in this picture is an individual quite unlike his part in Star Trek DSN, (hint: he periodically drops f-bombs) whom the audience is supposed to regard as a “lovable scamp”. His efforts to sandbag the participation of his brother’s competing ceili band in the music festival and his brother’s tit-for-tat actions to sabotage his band’s ability to perform for the music festival are supposed to be regarded as physical humor, evocative of the “slapstick era” of comedy, making this a “light” movie.
His unfortunate tendency to thoughtlessness, it is discovered later in the movie, led to the revelation that he has (perhaps unknowingly) been an irresponsible deadbeat dad, having provided neither financial or emotional support to the woman with whom he conceived a daughter, leaving her to return to her mother’s home and become bitter and overly strict with her daughter, who is now a young adult and wants the truth about her biological father and an opportunity to pursue a romantic relationship with one of the younger male band members.
However, the serious nature of the issues summarized above add elements of weight, sadness, and dramatic tension to the movie.
These sophisticated themes, brief and partial female nudity, implied sexual intercourse silhouetted by a tent, and frequent use of the “f-word” as well as portrayal of alcohol intoxication (albeit with upchucking as a consequence thereof, but no evidence of illegal drugs) have resulted in this movie justifiably having an “R” rating applied to its American release.
This movie was released in the UK under the alternate title of The Great Ceili War.
The Irish music performed in this movie is perhaps different from what most Americans are accustomed to regarding as “traditional Irish music”, their ideas of such having been formed by Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley in the last century (which was responsible for the writing and publication of O Danny Boy, a song of wholly American creation, about as authentically Irish as Chop Suey is authentically Chinese.)
This movie contains “seisun” or “sessions” music, as traditionally played in Irish pubs and homes, much of which is purely instrumental, and a good deal more assertive than the Irish-tenor voiced sentimental ballads presented as “Irish music” by Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood. Jigs and reels are among the musical styles played by the bands, which are quite lively in themselves, in spite of an attempt by one band member to introduce an element of jazz into traditional Irish instrumental music, which would be in keeping with the spirit, if not the letter, of the traditional Irish music-making portrayed.
I liked the fact that there was a rare portrayal of the traditional Irish uilan pipes in the cinematic medium, as most non-Irish people don’t know anything about this variant form of the bagpipe, which is more like a bellows, and played by squeezing between the knees, a veritable musical Thighmaster!
Some of the user reviews on IMDb and Amazon.com were critical of the fact that (to the musically trained) the actors were not credible in their ability to simulate playing their instruments with true believably, and that Andrea Corr was perhaps miscast and that her sister (who does play the fiddle) would have been a better choice for this part.
Having never had the opportunity to play an instrument, admittedly, this deficiency went right by me, failing to interfere with my enjoyment of the movie. For enthusiasts of true, traditional Irish music, this movie should be watched for the soundtrack alone. Also, Colm Meaney’s Irish brogue and “gift of the gab” in poetic ad-libbing can make even a microphone test sound good.
I didn’t think I’d really like it very much, but I had a good laugh when a surprise winner was announced by the judges of the music fest and the battling brothers got their comeuppance.