Last night, for the first time in a few years, I revisited this amazing film.
It is a harrowing film which reflects the reformatory system in Ireland and the overwhelming power the Church wielded over Irish society until very recently.
William Franklin - Aidan Quinn - comes to teach at St. Judes reformatory school in 1939 after is wife died in the Spanish Civil War (the events of which are shown in fleeting flashbacks during the film). As the first 'lay' teacher to come to St. Judes he is the first person to question and challenge the brutal punishments of Brother John - Ian Glen (who is now in Game of Thrones) - who treats the boys there as creatures, only understanding brutal force.
However, Franklin shows how love and care for the boys - an aspect they had sorely been missing - worked much more effectively. The scenes in the classroom where they develop from reading the alphabet to being able to recite poetry and read is truly heartwarming.
Franklin becomes the saviour of the boys, save one.
This film does not shy away from the awful truths of the reformatory system. It shows how the horrendous actions of the clergy were hushed up by the church, and offenders were simply moved to different parishes.
However, the film also shows that there is goodness in people - including many in the church - and all people need is someone to stand up for them. This film wonderfully demonstrates how, with a little care and attention, anyone can grow and learn - even under such horrible conditions.
The music is also wonderful.
I don't often write reviews, but after watching last night, I felt compelled to encourage as many people to watch this as possible. It is truly spectacular.
Also: catch a rather young and tanned Robert Sheehan. He doesn't say much, but he is in a lot of background scenes.