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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 June 2014
Ken Loach's heart is in the right place and the injustice suffered by the rural poor in Ireland is a theme which draws him back once again, although the theme seems smaller scale, the violence lower key than in "The Wind that Shakes the Barley".

In 1932, Jimmy Gralton returns from recession-ridden New York to care for his widowed mother after his brother's death but it soon becomes clear that he has in fact ended an exile resulting from his construction of a community hall seen as a threat by the Catholic church, since it provided education and encouraged working class people to think for themselves. A legendary local hero, he is mobbed on his return by the youngsters who wish him to revive the hall, and the lure proves too great to resist.

Apart from old political enemies, a major source of tension is the fierce opposition still presented by the local priest who seems obsessed with Jimmy, perhaps in part by the nagging sense that, although an atheist, communist and freethinker, he is in fact a man of integrity. Self-educated on the books from his mother's former mobile library, Jimmy is also a persuasive speaker well able to counter the priest's pulpit oratory. Soon, the hall is restored to its former glory, with the added novelty of a wind-up gramophone and the jazz records brought back by Jimmy. The free and joyous dancing to this music is of course the last straw for the priest.

Apart from Jimmy's battle with the conservative priest,the strongest threads are his relationships with his deceptively meek and simple mother who in fact shares many of his ideals, and with his old flame Oonagh, now married, for whom his love is all the more poignant since they are so well-matched and in sympathy with each other. Despite all this, the plot is a little too thin for the length of the film (109 minutes) and the intended naturalness and apparent use of improvisation sometimes seem to fall a little flat. I agree with reviewers who have said that at times the film smacks of "political theatre" and becomes somewhat wooden or didactic. Yet, there are many engaging scenes and subtle interplay between the characters. Jimmy is convincing and charismatic, and the acting, which I sense may include a number of local extras with speaking parts, is in general very effective.

It was a problem for me that I did not possess a clear enough grasp of the internal politics of early 1930s Ireland to understand some of the political discussions which ensued. However, Loach does not miss the opportunity to draw a clear parallel between the bankers' greed of 1920s America, which triggered the Great Depression, and the recent financial crisis.
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on 7 November 2014
I really enjoyed this film highlighting a period of Irish History I was not to aware off. A classic Ken Loach film bringing aspects of history we may be aware of to the fore. Great performances from the ensemble cast and the film looked magnificent. I could imagine it caused some disquiet in selected corners but also wonder how much of the issues the film covered are still relevant today? May not be for everyone but a very good film none the less.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 14 November 2014
Set in 1932 Ireland, we meet Jimmy Gralton. He has returned from enforced exile in the USA and returns to his home. Once there his old hall becomes a focus for the community who want to see it re-opened. Jimmy really wants to get on with an ordinary life, but he soon sees the benefits of a communal space where the community can come together to learn, laugh, dance and enjoy themselves.

Problem is that Jimmy is a socialist and as such soon gets the ire of the church in the shape of father Sheridan (Jim Norton you may remember him from `Father Ted') and the squire and the local fascists. You have to have a local branch I always feel of right wingers, but seriously this is conservative Ireland where repression was seen as next to Godliness - and the Church strictly enforced its doctrine over the community.

Things play out as the opposing sides inevitably cross one another's paths and the outcome is always in the balance. We also have the sub plot of the girl he left behind.

Ken Loach is a revered film maker and Paul Laverty is my favourite screen writer, he has been ably aided here by Donal O'Kelly (who wrote the play this film is based on). The hallmark direction from Loach is here which gives a free reign to the actors which ramps up the realism and gives it that documentary feel that works so well (think of `The Wind That Shakes the Barley' or `Land and Freedom'). As ever this is an absolute joy to watch, full of historical, social detail and dripping with political meaning and all based on a true story. One not just to recommend but one you will not want to miss.
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on 28 February 2016
Beautifully made film about Irishman Jimmy Gralton who returns from exile to his native Ireland and re-opens a dance hall in the local community for residents to have some fun out of their otherwise drab lives, only to be targeted once again by right wing fascists and a local priest who disapproves of any fun not signed off by the church. It's more than a just dance-hall to the local community - it's a place to learn, socialize, read poetry, discuss ideas and politics and therefore a perceived threat to the control that the church has over people in the community. Based on a true story. The Irish landscape shots look great on Blu Ray. I particularly enjoyed the circa 1930 era jazz dancing scenes where Jimmy is introducing what must have been something of an alien culture to a community largely shut off from the wonders of other parts of the world.
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on 3 September 2015
Jimmy is a charismatic hero. His Communist beliefs become irrelevant in the struggle between basic Community values and a powerful Church and Rural Landlords. Dare to be moved, inspired and motivated by yet another Ken Loach success. I felt ignorant and uneducated about the historical complexity of the struggles, courage and social suffering which the modern Irish State had been born from. Apart from some minor film editing irritations I was overwhelmed and enthused by the sheer energy, warmth, humanity and music of these wonderful Irish men and women. A film to be watched again and again.. Witnessing the final tragic Deportation is nearly unbearable. . John
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on 14 December 2014
This is a period political biopic/ docudrama, telling the story of Jimmy Gralton.

The film was directed by veteran Ken Loach, who has a track record of political dramas.

It's an engaging true tale, told compellingly.

The ensemble cast is excellent, portraying the tensions of a divided and poverty stricken Ireland in 1932.

The script opens up and explores the conflicts within a small community as well as in Ireland during a turbulent period in its history.

For anyone who is interested in this era of Irish history, Jimmy's Hall is compelling viewing.
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on 18 July 2015
Jimmy's Hall (Blue Ray)
The fight for good and a great watch!.
Although the film depicts a (Southern) Ireland a bit before my time I can still identify with it. I lived in the north and the prejudices and fears are very believable and you don't have to be Irish to enjoy it. The old dilemma of religion versus state, and bigotry which still prevail today in some regions are observed with a keen eye and attention to detail. A picture that paints 1000 words reminding me of my first dance and a time before show bands and television with the basic necessities of life and principals fought for.
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on 13 October 2015
I had the chance to watch this film on an Aer Lingus flight over the Christmas holidays. Absolutely LOVED it. Wonderful story, wonderfully done. I'm buying copies as gifts for friends. If you're interested in Ireland and Irish history, you'll be highly entertained by this film. And even if you're not, I can't imagine anyone not liking it.
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on 16 January 2015
This film has all the hallmarks of a Ken Loach original: sincere and worthy ideological commitments, a nice sense of place, and great cinematography. It doesn't match either _Wind that Shakes the Barley_ or _Kes_, however, and the production is often let down by the poor supporting performances offered by (well-meaning but nonetheless unprepared) locals who were drafted into the project as "actors."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 September 2016
There is a marvellous moment in Ken Loach’s 2014 film where Barry Ward’s eponymous returning hero unveils a 'newfangled invention’ – the gramophone – to the wide-eyed astonishment of his local 1930s rural Irish community colleagues. Once again, Loach sets his intimate, endearing story (inspired by real events), and peppered to the end with bursts of humour and romance, in a wider political context – here the aftermath of the Irish Civil War – and, whilst Jimmy’s Hall may get a little too overtly preachy at times, the film-maker manages to construct another engaging, skilfully made piece of cinema. Certainly, when Loach finally does 'hang up his boots’ (as it were) I, for one, will miss his contribution to British – and world – cinema (the introductory credits to Jimmy’s Hall notably include many Irish names – Loach spreading gainful employment opportunities around, it seems!).

As ever, here Loach (and his casting team presumably) have exceled in their choice of virtual unknowns (certainly to 'mainstream cinemagoers’) to head the cast and also in the depiction of the frequent ensemble scenes. Ward impresses as the radical thinker returning from a self-imposed decade of exile in the US and looking to re-establish the community hall promoting local creativity (dancing, drawing, poetry, etc), whilst, in support, Simone Kirby (who has a touch of the Julianne Moore’s about her) as Jimmy’s 'long-lost’ love, Oonagh, and Aisling Fanciosi as the feisty, rebellious Marie are also good. But, for me, the acting honours go to Jim Norton’s calm, calculating priest, Father Sheridan, who is looking to oust Jimmy (and his influences) from the community – whether for reasons of his 'communism’ or his enthusiasm for the 'lascivious corruption’ engendered by jazz dance! Norton was also outstanding 25 years ago for Loach as the similarly sinister Police Commissioner Brodie in 1990’s Hidden Agenda. I found the rivalry between Jimmy and Sheridan (and Loach’s take on the church’s influence) to be more engaging (and, frankly, more original) than the film’s political thread.

Looks-wise, the film (as is Loach’s wont) is relatively naturalistic in the main, but Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan does give us some stunning light effects (blue/green) in the depiction of the titular hall. Loach’s regular screenwriter, Paul Laverty, also comes up with one or two gems in the dialogue ('The masters and the pastors’, and Father Sheridan quipping, 'Well, I’ll be damned’).

Not absolutely top drawer Loach, then, but we’ll miss him when he’s gone (mark my words).
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