We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Crying Game

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film


The Crying Game

(Neil Jordan)

‘… not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character…’

Ciara O’Brien

We in Ireland, we have a lot to be proud of. From our rich food and drink culture, to the proud ownership of the uncoordinated one from One Direction, we have it all. Yet somehow our rich literature and film history is often overlooked. So, being Film Ireland’s 25th anniversary, we have taken it upon ourselves to celebrate what we feel are the very best examples of Irish filmmaking of the last 25 years.

I should confess early on here to being a bit of a Neil Jordan fan-girl. Upon hearing he was filming Byzantine in my hometown recently, I may or may not have taken to driving the long way home every night just in case they needed a battered Opel Corsa for their next scene. For me, there is something both transformative and recognizably Irish about the way in which Jordan presents film. From Anne Rice’s vampiric duo to a recovering alcoholic fisherman regaling his ailing daughter with fairytales, there is something quintessentially Irish about each of his works. Jordan regularly takes an Irish tale and transforms it into something that can translate anywhere. He makes the local tale a universal one. My choice for ‘We Love…’, The Crying Game, is a prime example of this gift.

The Crying Game follows the twists and turns of Fergus, played by the ever-present Stephen Rea. Fergus, an IRA volunteer who inadvertently strikes up an unlikely friendship with captured British Army giant Jody, played by Forest Whitaker. A hostage situation gone horribly wrong in every way causes Fergus to flee, changing his name to ‘Jimmy’ and seeking out Jody’s lover, Dil. Fergus is immediately taken with Dil, and begins seeing her under his new identity, revealing nothing about his IRA past. Unfortunately for Fergus, he is not the only one carrying a secret. There is something about Dil that Fergus doesn’t know, and the reveal is as jarring to the audience as it is to Fergus himself (unless a certain infamous line from Father Ted gave it away).

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Released in 1992 amidst a flurry of controversy, The Crying Game is Irish filmmaking at its finest, engaging both Irish and worldwide audiences. The Crying Game is a rare example of a movie that not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character. This ability to never quite reveal all until the last possible moment is something Jordan has perfected, and we saw him utilize it more recently in Ondine. Jordan is a master at having his audience engaged in one story for 90 minutes, only to later reveal that the story is about something else entirely. Somehow, we are positioned alongside our protagonist, Fergus and by ensuring our identification with him, the twist manages to never alienate the audience. We follow Fergus throughout his struggles, and we experience as much of his existential crisis as possible. For 108 minutes, we are Fergus.

The Crying Game deserves to be heralded as one of the finest Irish films of the last 25 years. It is the kind of film that leaves moviegoers talking amongst themselves for days. This, for me, is what cinema is all about, and what positions Neil Jordan in my list of favorite directors and writers.

I’ll leave you with the infamous words:
‘Careful now’.

Ciara O’Brien


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