A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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?
- In theaters: December 29, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: August 28, 1998
- Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Pete Postlethwaite, Emma Thompson
- Director: Jim Sheridan
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and politically-generated violence
- Last updated: July 16, 2020
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