Ken Loach‘s last feature focused on Jimmy Gralton, the leader of the actual Communist Party of Ireland, back in 1932.
This figure of not only communism, but cultural revolution, was obliged to flee Ireland during the Civil War of the country in the 20’s, after building a cultural space. Indeed, this “hall” – as called in the movie – combined different activities such as singing, poetry, box and dance. It went against the strict values of the Catholic Church and after Jimmy’s (Barry Ward) escape, it was shut down.
Jimmy’s Hall relates his story starting the day of his coming back ten years after the event. It didn’t take long to him to reopen the hall and gather along the old activists and teenagers in search of freedom.
However, it didn’t take long also to get the attention of the Church again.
When Jimmy flee the country, he went to the United States, where he wandered around jazz clubs, animated by black musicians, and assisted to the evolution of the music genre. Therefore, when he returned, he introduced new dance moves to the members of the hall, moves bearing sexual meanings and african-american origins, but most importantly, moves caring freedom of expression, and opposition.
Ken Loach filmed the movie as an old movie broadcasted on TV on a lazy afternoon.
However, as many Loach’ movies, his biopic bears and conveys values and elements of denunciation. Here, an image of an old Ireland, where the Catholic Church wanted to contain all the progressive ideas of the time embodied by the character of Jimmy. A Church that is represented as castrator, negatively portrayed; a source of violence controlled by a priest aiming as inspiring respect and devotion to the population of Leitrim.
Despite all that, the film lacks of twists. Indeed, it is really smooth, very light, and thus, lacks of a little something that will get it out of the tv feature film aspect.
The issue is also located in the angle Loach has adopted, filming from one perspective, thus lessening the complexity. It is a light movie, with a happy ending and no shots taking by night increasing this idea of lightness.
In a nutshell, all the craziness, intensity, and thus depth Jimmy’s Hall could have borne was put aside, which is very unfortunate.