Homegrown films about the Troubles in Northern Ireland usually manage to whack you between the eyes, either emotionally or dramatically. Oddly, this doesn't. Set in Belfast (where Titanic was built) in 1972 and loosely based on real-life events, it charts the rise of a women's peace campaign, led by Catholic mother of four Bernie McPhelimy (Walters).
Although the film illustrates just how humdrum sniping and army raids seemed to the residents of the Andersonstown district, this also serves to squash any sense of tension - even when Bernie is threatened with a gun. Nor does director Michell spell out why the politically naive women were lambasted by sections of their own community while being courted by the IRA and the Brits. Instead, the film hops in almost folksy fashion from event to event - Bernie at her first public meeting, Bernie on TV, Bernie taking tea with the big-wigs, a brick through Bernie's window, a mob at Bernie's door.
ClichŽs aside, the adverse effect of Bernie's fame on her children is more convincing as elder daughter Annie (O'Neill) copes with vitriol at school and romance with a republican student. But this is a film where no one panics much, although Bernie's hubby Aidan (Hinds) hints at it. To the filmmakers' credit, Bernie is never deified, there are sparks of humour and the attempt to present violence as normality in the province is commendable - but the whole doesn't hang together well.
The role of Bernie, plain-speaking housewife battling for sanity in a mad world, should have been ideal for Walters, yet she's surprisingly scrunched up, even borrowing expressions from her TV character Mrs. Overall. The subject matter may be interesting but this is a sadly lacklustre treatment compared with The Boxer, Nothing Personal or Some Mother's Son.