It's summer time and for serious filmgoers the dipstick for measuring quality movie releases is more than a quart low, not to be replenished until mid-September or so. With "Austin The Menace" taking over every other movie screen in the country it is hard to find something a little more filling than cotton candy. And often times we have to look to foreign shores for quality, and it can be found in “This Is My Father,” an Irish flick from the Old Sod.
“This Is My Father” is mostly set in 1939, and it stars Aidan Quinn as Kieran O'Day, a farmhand who falls for a young lass named Fiona Flynn, played by newcomer Moya Farrelly. It is an age-old story of two lovers from the opposite sides of the tracks whose doomed affaire d'amour does battle with hypocrisy and close-mindedness on all sides -- from the church, the townspeople, and even within their own families. It is sort of like "Romeo and Juliet in the Emerald Isle." Their tragic tale is told by an ancient "traveler" -- Ireland's version of Gypsies -- in flashback, in the present day, to American high school teacher Kieran Johnson, played by James Caan, who has gone to Ireland on a roots search to find out information about the father he never knew. Caan and his nephew discover an old photograph of his mother's that he had never seen so the two of them take a journey through the family's past. When Caan starts asking questions he is met with some resistance by the locals, and eventually he gets the old woman to tell him the sad story of his mother and father, a saga that spans the generations.
The making of “This Is My Father” was a literal family affair. Aidan Quinn and his siblings were raised in Chicago by Irish immigrant parents, and the family moved to Ireland twice while the kids were growing up. The Quinns produced the movie, brother Paul wrote and directed the film, brother Declan did the cinematography and sister Marian has a cameo role. The film is fiction but it is loosely based on a series of real events that happened in the Quinn family in the past. And many of Ireland's finest actors have cameo roles -- Stephen Rea as a fire and brimstone priest, Brendan Gleeson as a cop, and Colm Meaney as the traveler's son. American John Cusack, who has known director Paul Quinn since their early acting days together, also has a small but pivotal part as the photographer who took the photo that sent Caan on his trek in search of his Da.
With Father's Day coming up this weekend, instead of standing in long lines to see the latest brainless blockbuster, consider taking your father to see “This Is My Father.”
© 2003 - Larry Carlin - Air Date: 6/16/99
This Is My Father