Filmed against the spectacular scenery of the Isle of Man and set to a terrific score, the movie is a gentle, sweetly funny tale-not the laugh-out-loud variety, but the kind that engenders a long-term grin.

WAKING NED DEVINE

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Why do we love small, unpretentious Irish movies so much? Waking Ned Devine reminds us that much of their charm lies at least partly in the celebration of the illogical. We Americans are exasperatingly literal-minded. Our tendency to need questions and answers, to need things to make sense, is an exhausting and earnest process. The Irish, it often seems, have no need to make sense. Perhaps we love them for that freedom. They can fly, unfettered by reason.

In the tiny village of Tully More, Ned Devine has died of a heart attack brought on by the shock of the winning half-million-pound lottery ticket still clutched in his hand. Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) and Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly) decide on the spot that, if poor Ned can't enjoy his winnings, surely they are entitled to stand in for him. Michael will assume Ned's identity and claim the pot.

This appropriately wacky premise introduces us to the citizenry of Tully More: Jackie's marvelously sensible, but crafty, wife Annie (Fionnula Flanagan); the courting couple, Maggie and Pig Finn; and finally, the town's reigning wheelchair-bound eccentric, who stirs up a cauldron of trouble all by herself. Each of the other 52 villagers shows up in some wonderful small way or other throughout the proceedings until writer/director Kirk Jones winds things up in a satisfying tempest of black humor.

If "normal" and "ordinary" are adjectives conjured up in the pastoral imaginings of Irish village life, think again. Better to imagine ordinary people who have just sniffed money and, powered by the larceny that has surfaced in their hearts, are runing hellbent with a backward glance at normal life toward the riches.

The most cheerfully memorable scenes involve Jackie and Michael in collusion to outwit the pleasant Lotto Man from the big city, who arrives to make "a few inquiries" regarding the credibility of the claimant. You will not soon forget Michael, stark naked, racing through the hills on his bicycle to beat the Lotto Man to Ned Devine's cottage. He is a rumpled old bag of bones clothed only in tremendous dignity.

Ian Bannen, a hearty chunk of a man, and David Kelly, the befuddled co-conspirator, make a wonderful pair of schemers. They are the leader and the led in this celebration of the notion that beating the system is a goal of unquestionable acceptability. Fionnula Flanagan's Annie is the source of most of their ideas as well as the force that keeps their feet somewhat on the ground.

Filmed against the spectacular scenery of the Isle of Man and set to a terrific score, the movie is a gentle, sweetly funny tale-not the laugh-out-loud variety, but the kind that engenders a long-term grin. In addition to a delectable 90 minutes of movie-watching, Waking Ned Devine hands us another gift: we will never again think of a bicycle or a telephone booth without breaking into a smile.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : Fox Searchlight Pictures
Rating : PG
Running time : 1h31m


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