A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 202 – Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine – September 18th, 2010

Back when we watched Local Hero we were casting about in our collection for similar movies, because it’s really a wonderful flick and we’d enjoyed it so much we wanted to keep up the mood. We ended up doing the Norman Conquests movies, but they weren’t quite what we’d been looking for. This would have been perfect, but believe it or not, we didn’t own it! Every so often we come across gaps like that. Movies we could have sworn we owned, or movies we loved and just never got around to purchasing our own copies of and never realized it.

This is a charming movie about a small village in Ireland where someone has won the national lottery. Old friends Jackie and Michael and Jackie’s wife Annie have found out that the latest winning ticket came from their village, but it’s none of the three of them and there are only 52 people living there. It takes a good 25 minutes for anyone in the movie to find out that it’s Ned Devine who won. A good chunk of the movie is taken up with Michael, Jackie and Annie going through the entire village to work out who it was who won. And then it’s a mad dash to figure out how to claim the money, which ends up involving the entire village and an elaborate hoax. Because Ned has died of shock upon winning.

There’s a real community spirit in this movie, which is what makes Local Hero come up when it’s discussed (and I recall seeing the title mentioned when Waking Ned Devine came out). There’s a wonderful scene in Local Hero where the entire community, after discussing the possible sale of the village to Knox Oil and Gas, leaves the church in single file while the priest distracts the main character. In Waking Ned Devine there’s the opposite. When Jackie proposes that the whole village claim that Michael is Ned, the whole village shows up at his door to sign up and agree. It’s a fantastic scene, showing this little community coming together for something so outlandish. That’s the whole point of the movie. It’s not so much about the money as it is about the people, even if the movie focuses on a select group. It’s a little telling that in the credits there are some named characters (some of whom only have one line, or no lines but are mentioned by name by one of the others) and then a big list of actors who are credited only as “Villagers of Tullymore”.

There are really two major stories going on in the village. One is the A plot, with Ned’s winning ticket and Jackie’s plan for the village to split the winnings. The other is a B plot with a young woman who lives in the village, Maggie, and the two men who are courting her. One is a local man with some money and a reputation with the ladies. The other is Maggie’s old flame, Finn, who is a pig farmer. Finn thinks he must be Maggie’s son’s father, but Maggie won’t say and she can’t abide the smell of pigs that follows Finn around, so she and her son live with her father and through the course of the movie we get to know her, Finn and her son better than we get to know most of the rest of the village.

The entire plot with Maggie and Finn would seem superfluous, until we reach the very end. It doesn’t really engage me much, but the ending for it is a cute tie to the rest. What I like more more is the interactions between Maggie’s son, Morris, and the local priest, Father Patrick, who’s just visiting until the village’s regular priest comes back from Lourdes. Father Patrick is in an interesting position, being a visitor, but part of the village nonetheless. Young Morris has latched onto him and plays the role of village tutor, explaining the ways of the small community to him. It’s a nice relationship to watch and it plays a great part in drawing the audience into the charm of the area the village is in. Morris whistles up a seal and muses on the vastness of the sky and then calmly informs Father Patrick that he thinks their regular priest will certainly approve of the village’s lottery plot because it will help the village and fill the collection box at the church. Sure, a lot of the movie’s humor comes from the antics of Jackie and Michael, including a rather infamous nude motorcycle ride. But there’s plenty of humor to be had in the rest of the village too.

Of course there’s a villain in the movie, and it’s not the lottery official who comes to meet Ned and make sure Ned really is Ned and talk to his neighbors and for whom the entire act is put on. He seems like a nice enough guy, friendly and just doing his job, asking for a birth certificate and giving Michael-as-Ned some advice to make sure he doesn’t let his friends take advantage, or spend it all at once. No. It’s the town’s resident grump, who makes a fuss for everyone. It seems she’s made a habit of it, really. She brings her toaster in for repair, then wants it back without paying for it. She crushes fresh loaves of bread, claims they’re stale when they’re not, then says she’ll take two and pay for one cause of the staleness. She’s a nuisance. And she’s the one hold out who threatens to go to the authorities unless her cut of the winnings is larger than the rest. The tension of the movie wouldn’t be the same without someone threatening to expose the whole deal, and well, it has to be someone unlikable.

By the end of the movie, you really do want to see everything work out. I don’t really give a toss who Maggie chooses or why, though maybe part of what puts me off that plot is that Maggie comes off the whole movie looking rather superficial. She isn’t given much of a character beyond “indecisive single mother looking for a man” and then suddenly we find out that there was seemingly more to her than the movie ever even hinted at. What I really love is seeing the village so excited and Michael and Jackie and their friendship pulling it all off. There’s a lovely bit where Jackie gets to tell Michael how good a friend he is without coming off all sappy and it definitely makes the movie that much better to have the two of them at its core. Ian Bannen and David Kelly make a great comedic pair, and Fionnula Flanagan as Annie provides a good foil (and support at the same time) for the both of them.

To be honest, if it had been possible to keep in the bits with Morris and Father Patrick and do away with Finn and Maggie and put in more of Michael, Jackie and Annie, I’d have been that much happier, for all that I do love the movie. I’d guess that the plot with Maggie and her suitors was an attempt to have characters in the movie who were under sixty. Regardless, it’s a wonderful movie, full of quiet humor and just enough slapstick for my taste. It’s got gorgeous scenery, fun performances and a sweet plot about people helping each other out. It certainly does make me think of Local Hero, but in a good way, and it’s a lot of fun in its own right.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Waking Ned Devine

September 18, 2010

Waking Ned Devine

I first saw this movie in an airplane. I hate watching movies on that tiny little screen, and with those annoying airplane headphones skewering my years (in recent years they’ve upgraded to actual headphones with a different jack to plug them in, but back in the day they were just tubes you stuck in your ears and the sound was generated by speakers in the arm of your airplane seat. Horrid things.) But even with a tiny little screen, half obscured by the heads of other people and the seat backs ahead of me, I was captivated by the charm of this movie.

This movie, like Local Hero which we have already reviewed and which is a longtime favorite of ours here, is a tale of the mythical rustic small towns of the UK. Tullymore is a little Irish town with only fifty-two residents. In the way of these towns in movies and television shows like this everybody in the village knows everybody else. As the movie starts we are following Jackie O’Shea. He reads in the paper that somebody in Tullymore has won the lottery, and is determined to suss out who it is. The first twenty minutes or so of the movie involve Jackie, his wife Annie, and his best friend Michael O’Sullivan and their efforts to figure out who amongst their neighbours has experienced an unexpected windfall.

The bit that everybody best remembers is of course the desperate naked bike ride that the very wiry David Kelly as Michael makes in a race to reach the house of Ned Devine before a man up from Dublin with information about the lottery. (I joked as we watched that the casting call for the role of Michael must have been for the thinnest most wiry old man they could find.) But that’s only one small part of the movie. The delight in this movie comes from the antics of Jackie and Michael. The two of them have been friends their whole lives, and they behave like schoolboys. “Thick as thieves” I believe the phrase is. It’s just fun to see these two old codgers in their scheming and plotting. There’s a lot of fun in the simple friendship of the two of them. Michael is a simple fellow without a dishonest bone in his body, and Jackie is the clever one and instigator with all the ideas.

Oh, there’s other things going on in town. There’s the b-plot with a pair of guys wooing a single mother. Maggie has told nobody who is the father of her boy is, though Finn the pig-keeper believes it is him. It’s a running gag that nobody can stand the stench of Finn’s pigs and that Maggie would marry him were it not for his pungent occupation. And there’s Lizzy, the nasty heartless evil witch who terrorizes the entire village from astride her electric scooter. But the heart of the movie is in Michael and Jackie. And in the camaraderie of the whole village.

Now I don’t know if isolated hamlets like this actually exist. Towns where everybody knows everybody else and they have little contact with the outside world. But they’re a romantic notion that appeals to those of us caught up in the whirlwind of the modern world. We need to believe that there are simpler lands and simpler people living out their lives out there somewhere. I suppose it’s just another fantasy realm like those that I so enjoy, just one that’s a little more plausible. The landscape here is so beautiful and unspoiled. The accents are so thick. It seems like an ideal place to escape to from the cares of today. And of course these small town people have a sort of wisdom in movies like this and prove themselves more clever than the big-city folks who visit their world.

I enjoyed visiting Tullymore again tonight. In more comfortable surrounds than my last visit. It was as charming, as funny and as touching as I remembered it being. Another worthy addition to our collection.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment