This enchanting adventure story about a pair of poor Irish lads and their possibly magical horse is a vivid reminder that there is more to kid film culture than animated toys, chop-socky amphibians, and Macauley Culkin vehicles. Grandfather (David Kelly) finds a beautiful wild white mare on a windswept Irish beach and leads her to town, where his son-in-law,...read more
This enchanting adventure story about a pair of poor Irish lads and their possibly magical horse is a vivid reminder that there is more to kid film culture than animated toys, chop-socky amphibians, and Macauley Culkin vehicles.
Grandfather (David Kelly) finds a beautiful wild white mare on a windswept Irish beach and leads her to town, where his son-in-law, Papa Reilly (Gabriel Byrne), barely supports his two young boys, Tito (Ruaidhri Conroy) and Ossie (Ciaran Fitzgerald). Reilly once roamed the land as a "traveler",
an Irish gypsy, with his wife Mary and a band of kindred souls, but left the road after his wife died giving birth to Ossie. Grandfather gives the horse to Tito and Ossie, who has a natural flair for horsemanship nurtured by his love of American Westerns.
Despite the boys' best efforts, the horse causes a commotion at their housing project and is taken away by the authorities. Reilly goes to the police station to legally purchase the animal, but a shady cop has already sold it to a wealthy racing enthusiast. The police intimidate Reilly into
signing away his rights to the animal, who promptly begins winning televised races. The boys see the mare on TV, get to the track and steal her, going on the lam into the countryside. The police take off in pursuit and also put a tail on Reilly, who returns to his old traveler friends for help.
They tell him that his dead wife's soul will not be at rest until he burns the couple's old, memento-filled caravan. Still unable to let Mary go, the sober father takes to the road on horseback with the travelers to find his sons.
Just like in the movies, the fugitives hop a freight train and head west. They are nearly captured the next day but the horse eludes the police and takes the brothers to the grave of their mother. Ossie is alarmed to learn that she died on his birthday. As the police and the travelers close in,
the mare takes the boys to Ireland's west coast and runs into the sea with Ossie on her back. As the boy begins to drown, a kind and beautiful woman appears beneath the waves and reaches out to him. Reilly swims out and brings back the unconscious Ossie, whom he revives on the beach. Previously, a
kindly police superior had discovered that the illiterate Reilly failed to properly sign the relinquishing document, so the horse still belongs to the boys; the animal, however, has disappeared in the surf. The reunited family decides to stay with the travelers and burn the old wagon, the image of
the horse appearing in the flames.
INTO THE WEST has a gritty charm more akin to British films of the past like Carol Reed's A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS, Ken Loach's KES, and Ralph Nelson's FLIGHT OF THE DOVES than to the calculated cuteness and casual cruelty of John Hughes. Even the most fanciful flights of fantasy need to be
rooted in the mundane to ring true. This film depicts the grim circumstances from which the boys flee (they often cut school and beg/perform in the streets to raise money), without skirting issues of class, alcoholism, illiteracy, and mortality. The flight into the Irish countryside feels
especially liberating after the cramped squalor of town.
INTO THE WEST, which marks actor Byrne's producing debut, shows people turning to movies and idealized visions of the past for consolation and inspiration. These points are conveyed via a graceful screenplay by Jim Sheridan (writer-director of MY LEFT FOOT and IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER), assured
direction by Mike Newell (ENCHANTED APRIL), and strong performances throughout. The two boys are quite good, especially young Fitzgerald. Composer Patrick Doyle provides a lilting, folksy score and cinematographer Tom Siegel shoots the autumnal Emerald Isle in a lovely subdued light. An enchanting
time will be had by all.
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