In the Name of the Father

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
In the Name of the Father Movie Poster Image
Great performances in electrifying true story of injustice.
  • R
  • 1993
  • 133 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Champions those who fight against impossible odds to do the right thing, or, in this case, to right a terrible wrong.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character is a little on the selfish side, and a thief, though he does eventually begin to think about others. Gareth Peirce is an even better role model, a female lawyer who fights against the system to set things right.

Violence

Explosions. Guns and shooting. Riots in the streets: tanks, hurled projectiles, Molotov cocktails, etc. Police beating, torturing suspects (a character asserts that the police "stuck a gun in my mouth"). Fighting in prison; riot squad called in. Prison guard set on fire; he twitches in pain. Characters die. Bloody nose. Chase sequence.

Sex

Main character naked, covering genitals, only bottom shown. Main character in his underwear. Man kissing woman, blowing smoke into open mouth; she falls on top of him on a couch. Reference to "free love." Reference to a "hooker." Main character plays with hooker's bullwhip and vibrator.

Language

Very strong language, with almost constant use of "f--k" and "bastard." Plus uses of "bitch," "gobshite," "pr--k," "ass," "piss," "hell," "scum," plus "Jesus," "oh my God."

Consumerism

Vicks VapoRub is shown and referenced in one scene.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character, and minor characters, drop acid. Lots of cigarette smoking. Social drinking (beers in pub). Reference to "free love and dope."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In the Name of the Father is a drama based on a true story about four Irishmen and women who were falsely arrested and blamed for bombing a pub. It suffers from the usual "based on a true story" shortcomings, but the performances more than make up for it. It contains some strong violence, notably a pub bombing, police beating a suspect, prison fights, a riot, a man set on fire, guns and shooting, and death. Language is very strong, with near-constant uses of "f--k" and "bastard," with many other words spoken as well. There's a scene of a man kissing a woman, and the woman falling onto a couch with the man. The main character appears naked (only his bottom shown) and in his underwear. And there are references to a hooker, and her "sex toys" (a whip and a vibrator) are shown. Characters frequently smoke cigarettes, and social drinking (beer in pubs) is shown. Characters drop acid, and there's a reference to "free love and dope."

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What's the story?

In IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, which is based on a true story, Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a petty thief in Belfast, Ireland. While robbing some scrap metal in the early 1970s, he gets into trouble with the IRA, and is sent to London to live with his aunt. While there, he and his friend Paul Hill (John Lynch) fall in with a group of hippies, living all together in an abandoned flat. In October of 1974, a local pub is bombed, and Gerry finds himself arrested for the crime. The police, desperate to close the case, rush Gerry, his friends, his aunt, and even his father, Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite) through trial and send them all to prison. Giuseppe continues to fight for freedom, despite his failing health, while lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson) helps from the outside. But Gerry must decide, at last, what he believes in and start to fight as well.

Is it any good?

Director Jim Sheridan's film version of the true story of the Guildford Four is a little slow, but it still cooks up many electrifying moments, thanks largely to three fantastic performances. Co-written by Terry George, In the Name of the Father (1993) feels not unlike most other "based on a true story" movies in that it tries harder to nail down important details than it does in finding the emotional spaces between the details. It's also too long and a little too aware of its own importance. But the story it tells is a good one; the outrageous injustice committed against innocent people gets the blood boiling.

Day-Lewis, who had won an Oscar working with Sheridan before on My Left Foot, is astounding playing the not-very-likable Gerry, enormously selfish and quick to feel sorry for himself. The actor finds a genuine emotional core that makes him relatable. We're with him every step of the way. His scenes with Postlethwaite -- and there are thankfully quite a few of them -- are the best in the movie. Their troubled, touching relationship feels like it goes back years and is based in absolute truth. Thompson has a rather tacked-on role, but she rages in it. You can feel the fire in her belly. All three actors received Oscar nominations for their work, and the film received four other nominations, including one for Best Picture. (Look quick for Saffron Burrows and Tom Wilkinson in small, early roles.)

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about In the Name of the Father's use of violence. How intense is it? Does the "based on a true story" aspect make the violence more brutal?

  • How are drinking, smoking, and drugs depicted? Was smoking more prevalent during this time than now? Are there consequences?

  • What do you suppose might have been changed from the actual story to make this film? Were you inspired to research this subject?

  • What is the main character's relationship with his father like? How is it similar to your relationship with your father or son? How is it different?

  • What is the IRA? Why was there so much rage and anger around this incident?

Movie details

For kids who love true stories

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