Directed by John Irvin, starring Colm Meaney, Bernard Hill, Andrea Corr, Shaun Evans and Charlotte Bradley.
St Patrick's Day might be past but there is a part of Irish filmmaking that is forever green - and Oirish. Helmed by English-born director John Irvin, 'The Boys & Girl from County Clare' lays on the blarney like treacle.
The film is set in mid-1960s Ireland where oh-so-quaint traditions, values and music are starting to butt heads with a new Beatles-influenced world. But that's all a long way from the life of bachelor and solitary farmer John Joe MacMahon (Hill) who, with his local céilí band, has won the All-Ireland Traditional Music Competition for two years running. He has every intention of making it a hat trick, but there are worrying rumours about a céilí band from Liverpool that are also competing - especially as John Joe has a suspicion that they are headed by his good-for-nothing long lost brother Jimmy (Meany). When, after many shenanigans, the two bands meet at the competition, matters are further complicated by John Joe's fiddle player, Anne (Corr), falling immediately in love with Jimmy's flautist, Teddy (Evans), and her mother's over-the-top reaction to this event.
The story of the estranged brothers runs out of steam long before the film ends, leaving the rest of the running time to be bulked out with predictable mother-daughter dynamics. The plot and the many sub-plots are implausible - even for 1960s Ireland - but Irvine does a good job of focusing on spectacular vistas, lively pub culture and a few toe-tapping céilí sessions. The cast is superb, even if Colm Meaney and Bernard Hill (recently seen as Theoden in 'The Lord of the Rings') are sleepwalking their way through this feelgood fiddle fest, and the camera especially loves Andrea Corr. Her presence lights up any scene that she's in, an attribute that goes some way towards mitigating her occasionally clunky acting.
With old-fashioned ferries, creamery cheques, Babycham as the sophisticated girl's drink of choice and numerous smoky pubs, there are a few moments when 'The Boys & Girl from County Clare' will provoke nostalgia in even a native Irish person. As for the rest, it's like an Aer Lingus-sponsored advert of old, but pity the poor American who arrives expecting anything near the Ireland portrayed here. Good natured entertainment - but not something that bears thinking about for too long.