The H-block hunger strike of 1981 is the subject of writer/producer Jim Sheridan's latest chapter on Ulster's troubles, commissioned before the end of the ceasefire. But this time the team behind In The Name Of The Father nail their colours more firmly to the mast. While its multi Oscar-nominated predecessor never made many value judgements, this doesn't pull its punches in demonising the Brits and painting a very one-sided picture.
Mirren is the respectable middle class teacher mother of convicted IRA man Gerald Quigley. Although she is appalled by the violence he stands for, she has to question her beliefs when he's jailed for 12 years with fellow terrorist Frank Higgins. She forms an unlikely bond with Higgins' mother (Flanagan) as their sons start a "dirty" protest. When the prison authorities try to break them, they start refusing food with Quigley's cellmate, Bobby Sands, becoming a folk hero and an MP before his death.
First time helmer George elicits first-rate performances from the whole cast, but slips up badly on the credibility stakes. The British are seen as evil faceless manipulators who plot in darkened rooms like Orwellian mind police while the inmates are all portrayed as sympathetic individuals fighting for a cause. The victims of the violence, meanwhile, don't rate a mention.
Mirren's conversion to Sinn Fein campaigner unconvincingly overshadows the torture of watching her son's life ebb away and not knowing whether she should intervene to save him and thereby betray his cause. Compelling drama certainly, but such a complex social struggle deserves a more balanced chronicle than this.