The Boys and Girl from County Clare
by Chris Wood
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Tradition, especially in music, has a reputable standard for Clare County, Ireland. Annually, there is a contest which attracts Ceili (“Ceili” means “dance” and is pronounced “kay-lee”) bands from all over Ireland, America and even from Liverpool, England. But in the mid 1960’s, being in Liverpool meant The Beatles. So why does Jimmy McMahon (Colm Meaney, Far And Away 1992, Con Air 1997) and his band of lads want to take the ferry ride from the hometown of John Lennon to the “Emerald Isle” for the competition?
Jimmy would say for the ”d tell his most talented flute player, Teddy (Shaun Evans, Being Julia 2004) to stop trying to spice up the music and stick to playing it the way it was meant to be played. Then he’d tell him to go take a “piss,” but it means something different over there…
The Boys and Girl from County Clare takes place in 1966 on the day leading up to, day of and the day following the Clare County Ceili Band Competition. Choice for this time period probably had something to do with The Beatles experimental Rock ‘n’ Roll style juxtaposed against the conventional Irish step dancing music. Director John Irvin (Hamburger Hill 1987) took first time credited writer Nicholas Adams’ screenplay and presented an amalgamation of romance, comedy and drama. The terms “feel good” and “heartwarming” come to mind when watching this picture, however, there is balance that comes from the humor, obligatory vomit scenes and hippie nudity—like combining Regarding Henry and Porky’s on some levels (Or like reading the Leon Uris novel Trinity and a book of dirty limerick’s at the same time).
Jimmy may believe that he and his band mates have the competition in the bag, but the previous year’s winners are not so agreeable. John Joe (Bernard Hill, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 2003) and his group, featuring their most talented fiddle player, Anne (Andrea Corr, The Corrs) and her overbearing piano playing mother, Maisie (Charlotte Bradley, Veronica Guerin 2003) are confident it will stay with them in their County Clare.
All may be great musicians, but the two musical factions seem to be having the darn’dest time getting to the registration on time…Almost as if someone is trying to stop them. John Joe’s crew take five for a pint en route then come back out to find their van has no tires and Jimmy’s bunch are stopped at customs for, what they feel, is a fortnight.
John Joe hitches a ride with some stereotypical hippies and when he reaches the registration asks if anyone from Liverpool has registered? The man says, “No,” but just as soon as John Joe takes a sigh, Jimmy bolts in. The two look at each other and say, “What are you doing here?”
Andrea Corr, one of three lovely sisters in the pop/rock/Celtic band, The Corrs, proved she had talent enough to carry a main role—having prior minor parts in acclaimed movies such as Evita and The Commitments. Colm Meany does play a bit of a “meany” in this one, but his frustration and wicked use of curse words—four-letter and beyond—make him unable to be hated. Just think about the foul mouthed mayor of Mystery he played in the Russell Crowe hockey movie, Mystery, Alaska.
Some of the shots in the movie of Ireland are just fantastic. In one scene, John Joe exits his house with a cup of “Joe” in hand and leans against a fence surrounding his farm. The camera pans to the right and the ocean is right there with the rolling green hills and dark rocky cliffs. There should have been an 800 number crawl to book flights on Aer Lingus running across the screen at that point.
At and hour and a half running time, The Boys and Girl from County Clare is not trying to be an epic with Oscar worthy performances, but more of a light film where audiences feel the need to laugh out loud and stomp their feet during the wonderful Celtic rhythms. And to be frank, there is nothing wrong with a “light” movie not trying to make some grand point or break the bank on budgets. Good stories don’t have to change the world, they just need good story tellers and this movie achieved that goal.
Chris Wood is a freelance writer and graduate student for fine arts in creative fiction and non-fiction writing.
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