In the Name of the Father (1993)
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson, John Lynch, Corin Redgrave
Director: Jim Sheridan
Sometimes it’s only through the greatest of tragedies and the gravest of injustices that human beings learn to relate to each other honestly and openly. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Jim Sheridan’s searing In the Name of the Father, where father and son come to an intimate understanding of each other through shared sufferings.
It is of Gerry Conlon, played by Mr. Day-Lewis, imprisoned unjustly for 15 years after horrendous I.R.A. bombings of innocent people on the British mainland in the mid-70’s sent the crown government into a McCarthyite frenzy.
When, after sentencing has been carried out, the police find incontrovertible evidence of the Conlons’ innocence, they keep it carefully buried — until Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) ferrets out the truth while attempting to get Gerry and Giuseppe’s convictions overturned.
It is the story as well of Gerry’s father, Guiseppe, played by Pete Postlethwaite, picked up as an innocent accessory and convicted in a separate bomb-conspiracy case that, like his son’s, fell apart much later.The father, a simple religious man virulently critical of the I.R.A., died after five years in prison, before the case was thrown out in a special London inquiry.
In the Name of the Father is about victims — those who do and don’t fight back, and the different forms that those battles take. For the IRA, human life is cheap, and all targets are legitimate. For the police, it doesn’t matter who’s convicted, as long as the perception is that they’re doing their jobs. And for the “Guildford Four”, and those accused of aiding them, justice is unlikely and nebulous.
In the Name of the Father is a visual treat. There are no grand vistas for the cameras to pan over, but two scenes among many illustrate the level of photographic quality. The first is the stark and chaotic presentation of the Belfast riot. The camera puts the viewer into the streets in the midst of all the confusion and strife, creating a sense of immediacy that many action pictures fall short of. The second occurs much later in the movie, and is more serene and poignant image, as the windows of Gerry’s prison cry “fire tears” to match his own manifestations of grief.
For a movie that is so politically-charged, In the Name of the Father manages to sharpen its focus on the individuals rather than the bigger historical tapestry into which their lives are woven. It’s impossible to lose sight of the police cover-up, or the IRA’s casual views on killing, but the brilliance of Jim Sheridan’s motion picture is that we come to view every event from the perspective of how it impacts on the relationship between Gerry and his father, in whose name the final struggle is fought.