Susan Granger’s review of “THIS IS MY FATHER” (Sony Pictures Classics)
This Irish romantic drama is a uniquely personal collaboration between first-time writer-director Paul Quinn and his brothers Aidan Quinn (“Michael Collins,” “Practical Magic”) and Declan Quinn (cinematographer on “Leaving Las Vegas,” “One True Thing”). It’s the bittersweet story of a Chicago schoolteacher (James Caan) who travels to Ireland to discover his roots and learns the sad, true “Romeo and Juliet”-type tale of his mother and the father he never met. The screenplay stemmed from a story the Quinns’ Irish-born mother used to tell about ill-fated lovers in her village. The couple’s secret is something the tight-lipped locals still refuse to discuss – 50 years later. Told in flashback, Aidan Quinn plays Kieran, a shy tenant farmer, who meets Fiona (Moya Farrelly), a lovely, free-spirited 17 year-old, and they fall in love. But her alcoholic mother, who owns the farm on which Kieran works, disapproves because he’s poor and a bastard child. Eventually, the community, mobilized by a tyrannical priest (Stephen Rea), manages to separate them. The acting is admirable with a stalwart supporting cast that includes John Cusack, Colm Meaney, Brendan Gleeson, and Donal Donnelly. The weakness of the film is the contrived structure. Paul Quinn’s tragic story-line is so full of hackneyed interruptions that it loses its power – which is too bad since the poetic imagery evokes a society smothering under the weight of doomy superstition and inevitable tradition. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “This is My Father” is a gentle, moving 6. And the family collaboration will continue as the Quinn brothers’ Ireland-based sister Marian is developing a script about four Dublin girls.