Directed by Pete Travis, starring Gerard McSorley, Michèle Forbes, Pauline Hutton, Fiona Glascott and Alan Devlin.
While this feature-length dramatisation of the bombing of Omagh by the Real IRA on 15 August 1998 has already been shown on RTÉ and Channel 4, it can only benefit from a cinema release. Watched in a dark theatre, away from the distractions of commercial breaks and normal television interruptions, 'Omagh' makes for powerful and emotional viewing. Although the lapse of just six years since the event may make audiences uneasy, an authoritative and well-researched script - co-written by 'Bloody Sunday' director Paul Greengrass - and the co-operation of the families involved lays any fears of exploitation to rest.
The film focuses on the Gallagher family, particularly the father, Michael Gallagher (played by Gerard McSorley), who lost their 21-year-old son Aiden in the blast. The opening scenes of normality - the Gallaghers bustling about on a Saturday morning and people out shopping in the town - are cut with shots of the terrorists making the bomb and travelling to Omagh. Every viewer will know what happens next and this adds to the palpable sense of tension as the innocents in the busy streets of Omagh and the bombers move inexorably closer together.
The confusion and disorientation of such a disaster is conveyed in Michael Gallagher's search for his son at the site of the blast and at the overwhelmed hospital. His conviction that Aiden is somewhere assisting the victims becomes harder to sustain until, eventually, Michael is told that his son is among the dead.
Although a quiet, retiring man, Michael - given impetus by the lack of police progress, despite Tony Blair's vow "to hunt down those that have been responsible for this atrocity" - becomes a spokesman for the bereaved families' Omagh Support and Self Help Group. The rest of the film deals with the Support Group's ongoing battle to bring the perpetrators to justice.
'Omagh' is about politics, it's true, but it's also about the traumatic loss of a loved one. The Gallagher family - Michael, his wife Patsy (Forbes) and his two daughters Sharon and Cathy (Hutton, Glascott) - are a microcosm for every family in Northern Ireland that have been split apart by violence and Gerard McSorley's stunning performance is the strong centre that holds it all together. Alan Devlin, in the role of Lawrence Rush, a man whose grief for his wife becomes an all-consuming rage, is also standout.
While the cinema verité-style of filmmaking suits the subject matter, the jittery handheld camerawork, ambient sound and close head-shots of the actors can occasionally be jarring. 'Omagh' may be flawed but the depiction of these dark days in recent Irish history is difficult to watch dispassionately. Worthwhile and intensely moving filmmaking.