Jimmy’s Hall, directed by Ken Loach

Jimmy’s Hall is a moving counterpoint to Yeats’ poem on the wandering Aengus, which is recited in one of the movie’s scenes. Both works narrate the discovery of a purpose in life and the resolve of a pursuit – whether it be the endless search of a person in one, or the tireless defence of a cause in the other.

 

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

The Song of Wandering Aengus, by William Butler Yeats

Jimmy’s Hall is a moving counterpoint to Yeats’ poem on the wandering Aengus, which is recited in one of the movie’s scenes. Both works narrate the discovery of a purpose in life and the resolve of a pursuit – whether it be the endless search of a person in one, or the tireless defence of a cause in the other.

In Jimmy’s Hall, the protagonist, based on Irishman James Gralton, returns from New York to his native village to work on the family farm, where he eventually reopens the hall he had once set up. The hall – which serves as a place of dance, music, study, art and dialogue within the village – becomes the heart of Jimmy’s life and that of others who join it. They live more joyfully and meaningfully thanks to it – and rise in its defence when the local pastor and landowners, who perceive it as a threat to their values and interests, attempt to close it down. 

Thanks to Paul Laverty's compelling script, Ken Loach's movie develops the characters’ stories with precision and empathy. The movie does not condemn the Church or the powerful, but the injustices of modern pharisees who fail to question their moral codes and use intimidation and violence to preserve a flawed status quo. It offers the hall as a powerful alternative, where all are welcome to participate in confidence and in harmony: people join because they seek a place where they can develop and express themselves, share their experiences with others and live more fully.

Whether it be jazz or Irish folk songs, music fittingly pervades the movie both inside and outside the hall. Visually, Jimmy’s Hall is artfully framed and its colours graceful and arresting: the fields are painted with a dense Irish green, while the hall’s dance scenes are suffused with the warmth of a golden dusty light – evoking the tones of another moving picture with similar themes, Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate.

Jimmy’s Hall is at once thoughtful and beautiful, as it encourages its audience to reflect upon what matters and pursue it with hope - and pluck, in Yeats’ words, “the silver apples of the moon” and “the golden apples of the sun”. 

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