As the title suggests, this film about the 1981 Republican Hunger Strikes, by Belfast-born writer/director Terry George, is more interested in human emotions than political manoeuvring. Ten men starved themselves to death when the IRA prisoners' strategic request for 'political' status came up against the Thatcher administration's determined 'criminalisation' of the terrorists. Into that grinding head-to-head, we follow two very different mothers whose boys are part of the protest. Mirren's Kathleen Quigley is a quiet middle-class widow, shocked by the conviction of her eldest son Gerard (Gillen) for murdering a British soldier, while Flanagan's Annie Higgins, from staunch Republican stock, takes pride in her son Frank (O'Hara), when he's arrested after the same incident. Detailing their contrasting responses to a traumatic situation allows the film to tap unpartisan sympathy while keeping its own counsel on the terminal machinations of the ideologues on both sides. Performances scar the screen, while George shows keen organisational instinct and delivers the urgent immediacy of news footage throughout. IRA propaganda it is not. Instead, it's a plea for simple humanity over ideological point-scoring, an urgent message even yet, no matter that the film seems to expose old wounds. Of all the films to have come out of the Troubles, this one offers the most complex analysis and cuts the deepest.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Terry George, Jim Sheridan|