Directed By: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson
Tag line: "Falsely accused. Wrongly imprisoned. He fought for justice to clear his father's name"
Trivia: Daniel Day-Lewis kept his Northern Irish accent on and off the set for the entire shooting schedule
One night in 1974, an IRA bomb exploded without warning in a pub in Guildford, England, killing five people and injuring over 100 more. One year later, Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill and several others, including Conlon’s father, Giuseppe, were imprisoned for that bombing, despite the fact they were completely innocent. Director Jim Sheridan’s 1993 award-winning film, In the Name of the Father, brings us inside both of these tragedies.
It's the 1970's, and Belfast is rife with violence. When Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis), a young man with a history of stirring up mischief, has a run-in with the IRA, his father, Giuseppe (Peter Postlethwaite), puts him on a boat bound for England, to live with relatives until things calm down. On the ride over, Gerry runs into his old friend, Paul Hill (John Lynch), and instead of moving in with Aunt Annie (Britta Smith) as planned, Gerry follows Paul to a hippie commune in the heart of London. Yet they're not entirely welcome, and after a falling-out with some of their new flatmates, the two blow off steam by spending an evening wandering the streets. Unfortunately, this all happened the same night as the Guildford pub tragedy. Unable to provide an alibi for their whereabouts, Gerry and Paul are arrested, along with old friend Paddy Armstrong (Mark Sheppard) and fellow hippie Carole Richardson (Beatie Edney), and charged with the bombing. Giuseppe travels to London to hire a lawyer for his son, and is himself picked up by the police, accused of being a co-conspirator. When they're found guilty on all counts, father and son are shipped off to the same prison, and after being at odds with each other for so many years, must now work together to gain their freedom. They hire English lawyer Gareth Pierce (Emma Thompson) to try and get the case re-opened, but as the months drag on, Giuseppe's health deteriorates, and Gerry realizes that, if freedom doesn't come soon, his father will die behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.
In the Name of the Father is a powerful film, and much of the credit for this must go to Daniel Day-Lewis and Peter Postlethwaite. Though centering on a horrendous miscarriage of justice, the glue holding In the Name of the Father together is the torrid relationship the exists between their two characters. Day-Lewis is predictably excellent as the unlucky young Irishman from Belfast. His Gerry gets into a fair share of scrapes (as the film begins, he’s stealing sheet metal from the rooftops of Belfast, and when British troops mistake him for a sniper and open fire, it leads to an all-out riot in the streets), yet in portraying his character's deficiencies so effectively, Day-Lewis ensures Gerry's evolution from common punk to human rights advocate will be all the more dramatic as a result. Matching him step for step is Postlethwaite, whose Giuseppe is a physically weak and feeble man, yet stronger in faith and conviction than his healthy, somewhat troubled son.
The Guildford Four, as they were called, are now free, but nothing will change the fact a flawed, corrupt system cost them 15 years of their lives. In the Name of the Father asks us to reflect on that reality. Tough and unflinching, it is a motion picture that will stay with you for days.