Irish Film Review: The Secret Scripture


DIR: Jim Sheridan • WRI: Jim Sheridan, Johnny Ferguson • PRO: Noel Pearson, Rob Quigley, Jim Sheridan • DOP: Mikhail Krichman • ED: Dermot Diskin • DES: Derek Wallace • MUS: Brian Byrne • CAST: Rooney Mara, Theo James, Aidan Turner

Disclaimer: For anyone who’s purchasing a ticket to The Secret Scripture expecting a grisly and forensic investigation of the Catholic Church’s role in mid-20th century rural Ireland – don’t. That money would be much better spent on a night at home with microwave popcorn, a bottle of wine, the classics: Song for a Raggy Boy/The Magdalene Sisters … and, most likely, a lifetime of therapy. The Secret Scripture is the furthest from gritty realism a film can go – think Titanic meets Circle of Friends. But don’t get me wrong, it’s exactly this magical, romantic silliness that makes it such an enjoyable film to watch; the wondrous twists, poetic rants of madness, and two noble, tortured leads are straight out of a young adult adventure novel.

The film leaps between two narratives. ‘Lady Rose’, as she’s referred to by the staff at the Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, has been locked up for most of her adult life for supposedly murdering her new-born child. As the facility is shutting down to make way for a Celtic Tiger Hotel, psychiatrist Dr. William Greene (Eric Bana) has been called in. His job is to assess this hundred-year-old patient, also known as Roseanne McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave). Lady Rose has defaced a bible, citing it as her ‘Secret Scripture’.  From pages of scrawls and doodles, she starts regaling Greene and a woman known only as ‘Nurse’ (Susan Lynch) with the story of her past.

The second timeline takes place in the ’40s. Leaving her war-stricken life in Belfast, Roseanne Clear (Rooney Mara), as she’s known then, returns to her hometown, Ballytivan in Sligo. There she starts waiting tables in the Temperance Hotel for her conservative aunt, Eleanor (Aisling O’Sullivan). It’s not long before Rose draws the lustful gaze of every man in the village, including, but not limited to: a local IRA lackey Jack (Aidan Turner); Ballytivan RAF pilot Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor), who spends an inordinate amount of his time flying above his own home town; and the local priest Fr. Gaunt (Theo James), a man with a gaze so sultry, he’d tempt the staunchest of atheists back to mass.

A love-square ensues, the politics of which, attracts the attention of the sinister IRA enforcer, McCabe (Tom Vaughan Lawlor). After being publicly humiliated, then ostracized for her ‘effect on men’, Rose is eventually signed in to a local psychiatric hospital, St. Malachy’s by her aunt and on the testimony of the spurned (and very handsome) Fr. Gaunt. And things only go downhill from there.

Rooney Mara’s performance is poised, strong and emotive, and makes a potentially passive character, one who’s pushed along only by the whims of others, rather likable. Be prepared for a mild cringe midway, as the lack of chemistry between Mara and Reynor lends an awkwardness to the love scenes that is a perfect and authentic representation of repressed Irish Catholic nature. But at least Reynor’s flawless delivery of classic Reynor is as charming and cheeky as always. Vanessa Redgrave’s Shakespearian take on mental illness would sit better on stage than on screen, but is simultaneously solid and vulnerable.

The Secret Scripture packs a lifetime – and a long one at that – into a film. It’s not hard to forgive a few easy coincidences and misshapen character arcs, when ultimately what’s on screen is a beautiful, sad and funny piece of cinema.

Gemma Creagh

108 minutes

12A See IFCO for details

The Secret Scripture is released 23rd March 2017



Jim Sheridan’s ‘The Secret Scripture’ in Production


Jim Sheridan’s film adaptation of Sebastian Barry’s Booker Prize shortlisted 2008 novel The Secret Scripture has begun principal photography in Ireland.

The film is set to star Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Theo James and Irish actors Jack Reynor and Aidan Turner.

The film tells the story of a one-hundred year old women who recounts the diary of her extended stay at a mental hospital.

The film is due to wrap in March with a release expected later this year.


Jim Sheridan at IFNY




Irish Film New York

Co-Presented by Glucksman Ireland House

NYU Cantor Center

October 3rd-5th, 2014


Irish Film New York (IFNY), an organization that screens the best of contemporary Irish cinema, announces the line-up for its fourth annual festival. In addition to five recent fiction and non-fiction features that comprise IFNY, this year the career of Oscar-winning writer/director Jim Sheridan will be highlighted, with a partial retrospective of his work. The festival also includes three US premieres (Gold, Poison Pen and Broken Song) and two New York premieres (Out of Here and Love Eternal). All films are co-presented by the Glucksman Ireland House and will screen in New York University’s Cantor Center at 36 East 8th Street from October 3rd-5th, 2014.


“We are really honored to be hosting Jim Sheridan this year, as no one else defines the relationship between Irish and American film like Jim,” says Niall McKay, executive director of IFNY. “He has pioneered Irish/American storytelling. It is very fitting to have him be part of the festival this year as he is one of the biggest supporters of up-and-coming Irish talent, which is what this festival aims towards.”


Niall Heery’s opening night film Gold (2014), is an inverted prodigal son comedy that sees Ray (David Wilmot) returning to Ireland after 12 years to reunite with his daughter Abbie (Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) only to discover that Abbie and her mother Alice (Kerry Condon) have built a new life with Ray’s former PE teacher Frank (a hilarious James Nesbitt). Love Eternal, the closing night film from Brendan Muldowney is a touching drama that immerses us in the seldom-exposed world of necrophilia and assisted suicide and is a macabre ode to love, loss and the bonds that unite us.


The documentary Broken Song follows three hip-hop musicians/writers—GI, Costello and Willa Lee—from hardscrabble areas of Dublin. Claire Dix’s incisive film avoids the usual clichés about music, focusing instead on the lives of her subjects and listening as they struggle to find and articulate meaning in an often-chaotic world. Steven Benedict’s Poison Pen (2014), set in the world of celebrity publishing, follows Booker Prize-winning author P.C. Molloy who is blackmailed into writing for tabloid gossip magazine Poison Pen and, finding himself caught up in a world of stars and their secrets, is in danger of turning into a celebrity himself. Donal Foreman’s Out of Here examines the increasingly common conundrum of the unemployed college dropout returning home to live with the parents.


In the 1980s Jim Sheridan moved for several years to New York with his wife Fran and two daughters Naomi and Kirsten, an experience that was the intensely personal story for In America (2002), which tells the tale of a struggle for work and identity against the backdrop of an AIDS-ravaged city. (Both daughters were co-writers with Jim for the film’s Oscar-nominated script.) The two additional Sheridan films that IFNY will screen are among his most celebrated: the exoneration of the Guilford Four in In the Name of the Father (1993) and the powerful portrayal of Christy Brown by Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot (1989), a compelling film based on a true story, which won Day-Lewis his first Oscar.



SPECIAL EVENT – Jim Sheridan in America

WHAT:           A talk with Jim Sheridan

Jim Sheridan discusses his relationship with New York, his previous films including the Oscar-nominated My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, & In America, and the projects the prolific writer & director has coming up.

WHERE:         NYU Film Cantor Center

WHEN:            Saturday, October 4th, 2014, 7:00 p.m. 

COST:              $15.00





Irish Film New York

NYU Cantor Center

Iris & B Gerald Cantor Film Center

36 E 8th St

New York, NY 10003

October 3rd-5th, 2014



Friday, October 3rd

7.30 p.m.

Gold (2014). Directed by Niall Heery. 84 min.

Twelve years ago, Ray (David Wilmot) left town after his childhood sweetheart, Alice (Kerry Condon), dumped him, taking their daughter away from him in the process. With his ailing father requesting to see his granddaughter for the first time, Ray must return home to reunite with his daughter Abbie (Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams). But things take a turn for the absurd when Ray discovers that his daughter and her mother have built a new life with his former PE teacher Frank (a hilarious James Nesbitt), a controlling and regimented figure who is the direct opposite of Ray. After Ray is found sleeping in his beat-up car, Alice feels guilty enough to invite him to stay. But from his first bumbling efforts to get close to his daughter to the catastrophic effect his presence has on Frank, who is driven by his dream of bringing a revolutionary new running technique to the world — Ray manages to create chaos all around him.

North American premiere. Director present.



Saturday, October 4th

1:00 p.m.

My Left Foot (1989). Directed by Jim Sheridan. 103 min.

My Left Foot is the true story of Irish writer & painter Christy Brown. Paralyzed by cerebral palsy, Brown (played by Hugh O’Conor as a child and Daniel Day-Lewis as an adult) is written off as dumb and helpless. But Christy’s indomitable mother (Brenda Fricker) never gives up on the boy. Using his left foot, the only part of his body not afflicted, Brown learns to write. He grows up to become a well-known author &, painter, and along the way falls in love with nurse Mary Carr (Ruth McCabe). There’s no sugarcoating in My Left Foot: Brown, a heavy drinker, was by no means lovable. Day-Lewis and Fricker both won Academy Awards for their performances, and the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Part of the Jim Sheridan Retrospective



3:30 p.m.

In the Name of the Father (1993). Directed by Jim Sheridan. 127 min.

The My Left Foot team of star Daniel Day-Lewis and director Jim Sheridan were reunited to make this political drama about Irish citizen Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis), who was wrongly convicted of taking part in an IRA bombing that killed five people in Guildford, England in 1974. After a brutal interrogation forces him to sign a false confession, Gerry is sentenced to prison, his family is raked over the coals, and later his father Giuseppe (Postelthwaite) is charged with being an accomplice and is also sent to prison where he lives out the last days of his life. Day-Lewis gives an outstanding performance as a man tormented by the injustice served him.

Part of the Jim Sheridan Retrospective



6:00 p.m.

Love Eternal (2013). Directed by Brendan Muldowney. 94 min

After watching his father die, Ian (played by Thomas Labert as a child and Robert de Hoog as an adult) locks himself up in his room, shutting himself off from society and human interaction. When Ian’s mother dies a year later, he is left alone in the world and on the verge of ending it all until a bizarre encounter with the lifeless body of a schoolgirl and her suicide note resonates deeply within him, and Ian decides to bring her body home. His eyes opened to the possibility of love and life for the first time, Ian actively starts to meet up with others who are contemplating suicide, offering to accompany them in their fatal process, including a young woman who recently lost her child. What transpires is a macabre ode to love, loss and the bonds that unite us.

NY premiere.




Following the 7:00 p.m. Jim Sheridan Talk:

In America (2002). Directed by Jim Sheridan. 105 min.

To begin all over again is a classic American dream, but it is remarkably hard to do, as Irish immigrants Johnny (Considine) and Sarah (Morton) discover when they hit New York City, with their two spunky young daughters, in the mid-1980s. In pursuit of a dream, the family uses ingenuity and sheer strength of will to make the most of their new life. With no cash to spare, Johnny and Sarah settle into a chaotic New York tenement and attempt to turn the dilapidated setting into a true home. From dragging an iffy-looking air conditioner across Manhattan to finding make-do jobs, nothing comes without a fight for the couple. And yet, as they see America as rife with challenges, dangers and weirdness, their daughters see it as a magical place where anything can happen, a place that might release them from the anguish of what has come before. Then, on Halloween, the girls dare to knock on the door of “the screaming man,” a reclusive neighbor named Mateo, and everything changes. As the family heads for a crisis, Mateo (Djimon Hounsou) becomes their unlikely ally in the territory where hope, faith and even magic hold sway.

Part of the Jim Sheridan Retrospective




Sunday, October 5th

3:00 p.m.

Broken Song (2013). Directed by Claire Dix. 70 min.

Broken Song is a documentary film about music, redemption and the struggle to find and articulate meaning in an often chaotic world.

GI, Costello and Willa Lee are street poets, hip-hop artists and songwriters from north Dublin. For these young men self-expression in the form of poetry, rap and song has become a spiritual experience. Their aim is simply to articulate the chaos that surrounds them and to fight it with their words and voices alone. Along the way it has become their identity, their religion and, as they claim themselves, they are its high priests. In the end, the place where they live and their words are one and the same, constantly in flux, full of darkness and light. It is proof that these suburbs – that have bred darkness, murder and hate – have also inspired poetry and these unlikely artists are using words alone to fight back.

North American premiere.



5:00 p.m.

Poison Pen (2014). Directed by Steven Benedict, Lorna Fitzsimons, Jennifer Shortall. 95 min.

When Booker Prize-winning author PC Molloy is blackmailed into writing for tabloid gossip magazine Poison Pen, he is not only caught up in a world of stars and their secrets but he is also in danger of turning into a celebrity himself. Cultures clash and sparks fly as the cerebral Molloy reluctantly becomes the celebrity interviewer for vain celebrities. But as his own star rises he soon struggles to keep his own secrets off the front pages. Things get further complicated when he finds himself falling for his new boss, April Devereaux, but can there be any room for romance in the world of celebrity publishing?

North American premiere.



7:00 p.m.

Out of Here (2013). Directed by Donal Foreman. 80 min.

Ciaran (Fionn Walton) is a passionate yet restless college dropout who has returned home to recession-struck Dublin after a year of traveling. Broke and living with his parents, struggling to re-connect with the ex-girlfriend that he left behind and the friends and social scene that have moved on without him, Ciaran questions whether he should stay or go – and comes to realize the difference between being stuck and being present. Out of Here is a contemporary coming of age story shedding Dublin and its youth culture in a light not previously seen or explored.

NY Premiere.



Jim Sheridan at Irish Film New York 2014



Irish Film New York (IFNY) will host a talk with Oscar-nominated writer & director, Jim Sheridan, (My Left Foot, In America) on Saturday October 4th, 2014 and screenings of three of his award-winning films – My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, and In America.

The IFNY screening series is back this year with its fourth annual slate of top-notch contemporary Irish films. The festival takes place 2 – 5 October 2014 at NYU’s Cantor Film Centr.e

Click here for the Festival Programme:


We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Field

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 Field

(Jim Sheridan, 1990)

‘… Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain…’

Tess Motherway

In an interview with Jim Sheridan marking the twentieth anniversary of his famous adapation of John B. Keane’s 1966 play, he reflected on the modest success of the film in America stating ‘…America and elsewhere don’t get the concept of farming the land for somebody else… it is medieval to them, a foreign concept.’ (Moon, Aileen, ‘Jim Sheridan Talks About ‘The Field’’) Land ownership; that historic and most quintessential of Irish problems.

In The Field, Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain – drenched in the wilds of the west coast, the setting is at once romantic, a place of idyl, at times almost harking back to Ford’s The Quiet Man in sentimentality – a working place of purpose and sustainability. We are drawn into the landscape, invited to understand The Bull’s (Richard Harris) inertia regarding the land.

Conversely, it is also the setting of terrible violence, suspicion and anger, a lost place, steeped in the memory of Ireland’s past. For The Bull, the field acts as a double-edged sword, a provider and source of security, but also a tormentor – the divisive wedge between himself and his family and, ultimately, leading to his own mental decline. Sheridan utilises the landscape to translate these conflicts – the heavy stone, gushing river and violent storms – exaggerating the elements in order to optimise tension and climax. Purposefully devoid of time and place, Sheridan’s Ireland is the Ireland of nowhere and everywhere, and, unable to accept a changing Ireland, The Bull plays out these post-colonial demons, and the field provides the stage.

‘There’s another law stronger than the common law …. The law of the land.’

Today, Ireland continues its struggle with the land, but in a very different way. Irish cinema has always echoed this and, as with countless works of Irish art to date, land and landscape continue to be potent subject-matter. The Field is no exception and, twenty two years on, its impact is no less powerful.

Tess Motherway

Click here for more We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film



Celebrating 25 years of Film Ireland magazine, Exhibition Piece 8 – Issue 95 Nov/Dec 2003 ‘Being Jim Sheridan’


Séamus Duggan, who was managing director of Filmbase at the time, spoke with Jim Sheridan ahead of the release of In America.

Séamus also co-incidentally found a portal leading into Jim’s brain and brought back some of what he found there for our attention.

This article appeared in issue 95 November December 2003 which was edited by Tony Kiely.

To view a high res 150 DPI image of the article above click here

To view high res 150 DPI image of the article above click here



Cinema Review: John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man

Dreaming the Quiet Man

Dreaming the Quiet Man


DIR: Se Merry Doyle • WRI: Stephen Walsh • PRO: Martina Durac, Vanessa Gildea • DOP: Patrick Jordan • ED: Nicky Dunne • Cast: Maureen O’Hara, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jim Sheridan, Gabriel Byrne


At the time of writing, the spectre of Euro 2012 has really begun to grip the nation as the Republic of Ireland take part in their first major tournament in all of ten years. However, though the excitement in the exploits of Giovanni Trapattoni’s men has spread across the country, there will still be a certain section of Irish society who will only have a passing interest in how the Boys In Green fare in Poland and Ukraine.


With this in mind, there is always room for an alternative, and that is a role that the John Ford Symposium filled with some relish during its four-day run in the capital recently, starting on 7 June.


Amongst the events that took place during this time included a screening of Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece Unforgiven (Eastwood was the recipient of the John Ford Award last year), an outdoor screening of The Searchers, a real stand-out from Ford’s back catalogue, and public interviews with Peter Bogdanovich and Stephen Frears.


Another key fixture in the Symposium’s calendar of events, however, was the premiere of Se Merry Doyle’s insightful documentary, John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man, which takes an in-depth look at the Irish-American helmer’s time making his love letter to The Emerald Isle back in 1952.


In the long history of the Irish film industry, few films have made as inedible a mark as the John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara fable, which sees Wayne’s Sean Thornton returning to his birthplace in the West of Ireland following an ill-fated encounter in America.


This is something that Doyle seeks to examine in his documentary, and he has secured a real coup by getting O’Hara to speak candidly about her role in the film for the very first time.


Though she is now in her early 90s, O’Hara seems as sprightly as ever, as she recalls vividly her experience of portraying the now iconic Mary-Kate Danaher. We also get interviews with the aforementioned Bogdanovich (who had previously made the documentary, Directed By John Ford, in 1971), Martin Scorsese, acclaimed Irish director Jim Sheridan, and a variety of residents from Cong in County Mayo, where a large portion of the film was shot, who all give their take on what has helped the film to stand the test of time.


Amongst the elements that have captivated the interviewees, Scorsese in particular, down through the decades is the mythical feel of the film, which is brought into sharp focus during Thornton’s arrival by train to the fictional Inisfree, and its depiction of Irish traditional life, which was largely alien to watching US audiences.


There is also quite a lot made of the fact that Ford had such a hard time convincing the major studios in Hollywood that The Quiet Man was a worthwhile project to invest in, with many of them feeling that it wouldn’t be a profitable project for them to pursue.


Profitable it was though, and Ford would go on to win the Best Director Oscar at the 1953 Academy Awards (for a record fourth time), with Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout’s green-tinted Cinematography also being recognised.


However, as fascinating as it is to hear the ins and outs of the making of the film, this documentary also offers a greater understanding of what Ford was like as a director, and as a man. Footage from Bogdanovich’s documentary where he attempts to interview Ford, and Bogdanovich’s own recollection of shooting the film, shows us how difficult the man born John Martin Feeney could be, and O’Hara also reveals the problems she had working with Ford on The Quiet Man.


What also comes through, however, is how brilliant a filmmaker he was, and O’Hara herself has no hesitation in saying that Ford was the best director that she worked with. Ford himself often said that he didn’t have any great interest in films, and that he only ever saw it as a job, but it is clear that The Quiet Man was a film that was very close to his heart.


Given the legacy of The Quiet Man, Doyle’s documentary will undoubtedly have a life outside of the cinema, but for those who have been taken in by the recent Symposium, and are fans of Ford’s 60-year-old classic, it is well worth venturing to your local theatre to catch John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man while it is showing.


Daire Walsh

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
John Ford: Dreaming The Quiet Man is released on 15th June 2012


Review and Photos from 2nd Underground Cinema Film Festival

 (The UCFF Award)

Highlights of the second Underground Cinema Film Festival which took place in five venues in the seaside town of Dun Laoghaire on the 9th-11th September included an introduction to his film, In The Name Of The Father, by Oscar nominated director Jim Sheridan; Q and A’s with Booker prize winning author Roddy Doyle, award winning filmmakers Terry McMahon, Ivan Kavanagh, Conor Horgan and actor Emmett Scanlan.

(Alan Sherlock and Denise Pattison)

70 shorts and 15 features were screened over three days. Over 200 people participated in a range of free workshops and the inaugural award for Outstanding Contribution to Film, TV and Theatre was presented to Peggy Lally in memory of one of Ireland’s favourite actors, Mick Lally.

(Dave Byrne and Mick Daniels)

 Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from this year’s festival: “A sense of community and family” and “…so enamoured by the exquisite hospitality… ( guests)… stayed longer than they intended…” are some of the quotes from festival attendees.

(Dave Byrne and Paul Bolger)

We are proud to announce our recent partnership with ECU The European Independent Film Festival. The future looks bright for UCFF as we begin the first of our monthly screenings in the lead up to next year’s festival. We are now accepting submissions. Please contact for further information.

Denise Pattison

All Photos by Kevin Griffin

(Dave Byrne and Una Kavanagh)

(Johnny Elliot and Dave Byrne)

(Terry McMahon and Dave Byrne)