Movie Magazine International

Waking Ned Devine

Ireland - 1998

Movie Review By Heather Clisby

Someone in the tiny town of Tulaigh Mohr, population 52, has won Ireland's seven-million-pound national lottery but the question is who?

Such is the premise for "Waking Ned Devine", a hilarious film that lightly explores the prospects of sudden wealth. Filmed on the breathtakingly beautiful Isle of Man, this charming film is blessed with a swift pace, a strong story, gifted actors and a strict focus. (Are you listening, Hollywood?)

Jackie, played by the robust Ian Bennen, salivates at the idea of lining up the numbers just so. He and his wife, Annie, played by the becoming Finnola Flanagan, dream of the day when the jackpot is theirs and life changes forever.

The first half of the film is a process of elimination as Jackie, Annie and their best pal, Michael, played by the very game, David Kelley, go about deducing who the lucky winner might be. Just to be sure that their position is clear, they become the most generous and loving pals to every town member suspected of being a closet millionaire. After spotting a few pints and throwing dinner parties, they bring suspicion upon themselves.

In the cinematic realm, there exist rare scenes that are instant classics - you know upon first sight that a creaky Hall-of-Fame door will open somewhere just to welcome this sudden gem. In "Waking Ned Devine" there is such a scene and it includes an old motorcycle and one very flustered and very naked elderly gentleman. The audience was literally screaming with hysterical laughter, myself included. Bravo, David Kelley, for really giving us your . . . everything.

There are two charming sub-plots in the film that play nicely with one another. In one, two men vie for the hand of a beautiful single mother, Maggie. The first is a shallow ladies man and the other is an honest pig farmer. She loves the farmer but can't quite get past the smell despite his efforts with fruity soaps.

Then there is the nine-year-old boy, Maggie's son, who strikes up a philosophical friendship with the young priest filling in for the village's vacationing clergyman. In a beautiful and subtle twist, the boy emerges as the wise guide to the holy man's nave sufferings. In the final scene, we learn more about the boy's background and then it all makes complete divine sense.

The best thing about "Waking Ned Devine" is that one can't decide what the best thing is. Clever and unpredictable, funny and endearing, level and unpreachy, "Waking Ned Devine" is a joy.

© 1998 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 12/9/98

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