Directed by Seán Walsh, starring Stephen Rea, Angeline Ball, Hugh O'Connor, Patrick Bergin, Phelim Drew, Alan Devlin, Alvaro Luchesi, Eoin McCarthy and Maria Hayden.
'Ulysses', Joyce's epic tale of a day in the lives of Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and poet Stephen Dedalus, is a national institution. Consequently, anyone taking on the challenge of adapting the novel for the big screen faces not a little pressure to do Joyce's legacy justice. Seán Walsh's 'Bloom', a project 10 years in the making, succeeds only tolerably well.
Time and place are convincingly recreated. The scenes are simple, yet nicely shot and Dublin locales look quite stunning. There is a real sense of bygone days, a great achievement, given that the entire production was shot in and around modern Dublin.
'Bloom' features the cream of Irish talent. Stephen Rea is perfect as Bloom, as is Angeline Ball in the role of Molly. The rest of the cast acquit themselves well, though Hugh O'Connor's portrayal of the young-yet-burdened Stephen is perhaps more light-hearted than the book suggests.
Choosing what to take or leave from a book as unwieldy as 'Ulysses' was never going to be an easy task and unfortunately it feels as though the scriptwriters couldn't see the wood for the trees. Though much of the dialogue is taken almost word-for-word from the text, key explanatory points are left out, such as the moment where Bloom realises that his wife has been unfaithful. It also lacks emphasis on Bloom's innate feminine side, which prompts the fantasy sequence later on – a huge part of the film.
Structurally, the adaptation is also problematic. Placing part of Molly's soliloquy at the beginning is anti-climactic, even for those who've read the book. Early scenes progress quite quickly also, with the climactic fantasy scene seeming over-long. For a film that took so long to get made, it's disappointing that more time wasn't spent refining the script and the structure.
Nevertheless, 'Bloom' is an enjoyable production. The voiceover scenes are arguably the most memorable and there is a real Joycean feel. Perhaps the best compliment that can be paid Walsh's movie is that it might make anyone who hasn't read 'Ulysses' take the plunge.