Ailbhe O’ Reilly reviews Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.
In recent years there has been positive momentum behind the Irish film
industry with a slew of critical and commercial successes like the
Young Offenders, A Date for Mad Mary and Room. So I had high hopes for
Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture, an adaptation of Sebastian
Barry’s novel, with its stellar cast and an Irish director to keep the
movie true to its roots.
Unfortunately The Secret Scripture is a disappointment. The film has a
duel timeline with Eric Bana playing the psychiatrist examining Rose
McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave), who is living in a mental institution for
most of her life and telling her story of how she ended up there.
Through flashbacks we see a young Rose (Rooney Mara) living in a small
Irish village in the 1940s where she finds nearly every young man in
the village seeking her attention.
Her main beau is Michael (Jack Reynor), a fighter pilot, with the local
priest (Theo James) jealously looking on. The Irish village is painted
in quite a twee and unrealistic way, more common from an American
director unsure of the realities of Irish life than an experienced
Irish director like Jim Sheridan. Rose has one too many suitors for
the viewer to keep up with and the chemistry between Mara and Reynor
is not very convincing.
Films detailing the unfair life in Ireland during this time, for women
especially, are common with Philomena and The Magdalene Sisters recent
examples. The Secret Scripture’s limited script and unlikely
conclusion to the story lack the emotion and realism of these films
and therefore limits the level of engagement I could have with the
film. The sentimentally, especially towards the end of the film, also
does not do it any favours.
On a positive note, Rooney Mara is a very talented actress and is as
captivating as ever in the film – Bana and Redgrave also do their best
with the material, but the strong cast is not enough to rescue this
dud of an adaptation from Sheridan.
The Secret Scripture screened on Saturday, 18th February 2017 at the Savoy as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.