During the 1920’s Jimmy Gralton, a political activist and free-thinker, built a dance hall in rural Ireland. A place for young people to dance and learn new things. The hall grew in popularity and was brought to the attention of the local church and politicians who forced Jimmy to close it and flee to America. Over a decade later, Jimmy returns to County Leitrim to live a quiet life with his mother. The hall now abandoned and poverty rife in the community, the leader in him is awakened and decides to re-open the hall. Soon he becomes a friend to the locals but an enemy to the establishment.
Oppression of people dancing has been the staple of many societies through the decades and centuries. During the 1920’s the new age dance halls were threatened with closure and then all the way up to the days of acid house with illegal raves. Director Ken Loach’s movie has that immediate impact that the older generation just don’t understand what the younger generation are doing with this ‘modern’ music. However the film soon moves into the real issue at hand and that is about the injustice suffered in rural Ireland mainly through the ruthlessness of the Catholic Church and the politicians.
Loach certainly makes these the villains of the piece from the outset and turns them into evil incarnate by the end. Yet we need this as it gives balance to how fun loving and carefree Jimmy and his group are. They are the type of people that are easily identifiable with, even feeling like we could have been one of the gang. So it did stoke our fire when the rebelliousness kicked in and we wanted to see justice done for the locals who just want to live their life how they choose.
Yet it wasn’t all sunshine and glory for us, we struggled to understand some of the more in-depth political aspects of the movie mainly down to it not being made clear enough for those who do not have a great knowledge of this subject. We felt it could have been clearer on several aspects of where the story was coming from. Also we found, at times, the film was stretched too long in its run time. There were a few occasion when long scenes could easily have been trimmed without loss to the story of entire film.
Jimmy’s Hall engages slowly but we soon found ourselves drawn completely into the story that was unfolding. We wanted justice for those that just wanted to dance. But outside of the political fight between Jimmy and the local church it suffers from melodrama that runs for too long. A trim here and there would have made this a harder affair.