This Is My Father [1998/I]

Call this an Irish family reunion, onscreen and off. The brothers Quinn--debuting writer-director Paul, actor Aidan, and cinematographer extraordinaire Declan--pooled their talents on a movie about a middle-aged schoolteacher (James Caan) who makes a pilgrimage back to the Ould Sod, where he hopes to discover the truth about his mysterious dad. What he digs up, in flashback, is a Romeo-Juliet love affair blighted by class, religion, and sheer human meanness. Turns out Caan's father (Aidan Quinn, bulked up out of his usual lean good looks) was a farmhand--slow, inarticulate, pure of heart--who fell in love above his station. Vividly beautiful Moya Farrelly plays a nonconforming college girl on vacation, first amusing herself by drawing Quinn's locked-down soul into chats, dancing, and friendship, then coming to love the complex man she has freed from loneliness. But Irish angst must be served: Moya's unloving, jealous mother (Gina Moxley) and a sex-hating clergyman (Stephen Rea, wonderfully over the top) set their sights on killing the couple's happiness. In contrast to this old drama, the present-day framing story is distracting, even irritating, and cameo appearances by Colm Meaney, Brendan Gleeson, and John Cusack stick out like... well, charming guest shots. We want Paul Quinn to stay focused on the Thomas Hardy tragedy that beats at the heart of This Is My Father so that we can have more time to savor the strong, heartbreaking performances by Farrelly and his brother, backed by Declan (Leaving Las Vegas) Quinn's beautiful vision of the rich, dark world of Ireland past. --Kathleen Murphy

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