I’d resisted going to this film because I hadn’t read the book and had heard so many good things about it: the greatest short story in the English language, surely I should read it first? However, it isn’t re-released very often so when the offer came to go, I went. In a word, wonderful: a director of enormous experience and with complete mastery of every aspect of film making finally creates his passion project, a film of his favourite author’s greatest short story set in his ancestral homeland.
We follow Gabriel Conroy through the course of a New Year’s dinner party at the Morkan sisters’ house in central Dublin. His awkwardness, insecurities, likes and dislikes are revealed along the way: culture, pretensions (“Goloshes! said Mrs Conroy. That’s the latest”) and politics:
And haven’t you your own land to visit, continued Miss Ivors, that you know nothing of, your own people, and your own country?
—O, to tell you the truth, retorted Gabriel suddenly, I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!
—Why? asked Miss Ivors.
Gabriel did not answer for his retort had heated him.
Why is Gabriel unhappy – will we find out? Huston leads us towards the conclusion in a wonderful recreation of turn of the century Dublin (in fact, the set was a replica built in Los Angeles of the house still standing today on Usher Quay) and some stunning imagery: Gretta’s descent down the stairwell is a classic.