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In the Name of the Father Review

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The story of Gerry Conlon, wrongly convicted with the "Guilford 4" for a bomb on a pub in 1974. The police rounded on Conlon's family and went on to send his father to prison as well.

★★★★

sympathetic character. Throwing a post-Oscar Emma Thompson into the mix suggests a project which could easily collapse under its own worthiness, but in fact this film is a considerable achievement. Aside from daring to tackle still controversial material in a fair-minded but righteously wrathful manner, it manages to make gripping a story still headline-worthy enough to be familiar to most British (and Irish) audiences.

In 1974, the IRA bombed a soldiers' pub in Guildford, and the British police somehow seized on petty crook Gerard Conlon (Day-Lewis) and three of his mates as the culprits, then spread the net wider and gained convictions against practically the whole Conlon family, notably Gerry's fiercely moralist father Guiseppe (Postlethwaite), who died in prison. A solicitor (Thompson) got interested in the case and discovered that the police withheld evidence which would have freed Conlon, and the "Guildford Four" fought through to a successful appeal.

Like My Left Foot, this is so sure of itself that it doesn't mind depicting its hero as less than a perfect martyr: we first see him in the midst of a terrifically directed IRA-army skirmish in Belfast, filching the lead off a roof, while his alibi for the night of the bombing is an opportunist robbery of a whore's flat. The length of the film allows Conlon to go through a series of changes, even shunning the tragic 70s clothes and hairstyles for a sharper look as he goes from fringe hippie to despair to determination.

Establishing early a vividly horrid vision of the grubby 70s drop-out culture, the film potently conveys the reality of what the Conlons missed in prison as styles and trends come and go almost subliminally in the background while they endure the monotony of jail life. With the real IRA represented by a maniac who uses a home-made flamethrower on a prison guard, In The Name Of The Father avoids getting into Republican politics, though it indicts the behaviour of the police and (by implication) successive governments in the conduct of this particular case. The heart of the film is the relationship between Gerry and Guiseppe, as the father and son finally settle their lifelong arguments when unjustly imprisoned together.

Letter-perfect performances from Day-Lewis and Postlethwaite do a lot more than a dozen editorials to make an unforgettable point about the miscarriage of justice.