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Film Review: "Jimmy's Hall"


Based on a true story, the charmingly old-fashioned period drama "Jimmy's Hall" chronicles the life of amiable political agitator Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), whose individualist beliefs got him deported from Ireland in the 1930's without benefit of a trial. Returning to his homeland after 10 years in America, Gralton reopens the community center he helped found, and the building becomes a social gathering place where the local populace can learn about art and culture; Jimmy and his friends teach classes in dance, music, poetry, and boxing.

But these activities, and the free-thinking ideologies they inspire, pit Gralton against the oppressive Roman Catholic Church, represented by Father Sheridan (Jim Norton). Prolific British director Ken Loach ("The Wind That Shakes the Barley") paints in broad strokes (the film sometimes comes across as "Footloose" with Irish accents) and the narrative develops in overly conventional fashion. But the message -- that people should be free to express themselves in whatever way they see fit -- is as relevant as ever.