Courtney Barnett
March 17, 2013 8:00 am

I hope you’re all super excited about that pun I just created, because as I’m sitting here, going through Irish movies with box color auburn cookin’ in my hair (feels like the right time to touch up the red, wouldn’t you say?), I can’t help but get obnoxiously excited for this time of year. Most people take St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to go nutty on whiskey and green beer, but I’ve always taken advantage of the opportunity to geek out on my ancestry, eat a bunch of salty meat and taters, and add to my stockpile of Celtic music CD’s a la various World Market stores. For those who feel the same but also can’t stand another repeat of The Luck of the Irish on the Disney Channel, here’s a few great movies showcasing the Motherland without the overt kitsch factor.

The Secret of Roan Inish

A personal favorite from childhood, this film is circled around a creature of Irish folklore that for once isn’t a leprechaun, but the half-human, half-seal selkie. Fiona, a little girl sent to live with her grandparents on a tiny island of the Western Coast of Ireland, listens to the dramatic tales of her grandfather and fellow townspeople about the ocean’s unforgiving nature in its stealing away of her baby brother Jamie during the family’s evacuation of Roan Inish. She eventually uncovers stories about an uncle who allegedly married a beautiful selkie woman and ran away with her, then one day sees Jamie herself running through the grass, and now must try to convince the family of her vision. The film dips into your inner child as it reminds you of the beautiful power of storytelling and cute kids with accents. It’s also rated 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Commitments

Yes. Yes. Yes. Working class early 90s Dubliners band together to form a soul band only to fall apart once booze, romance, ego, and all-around Irishness get in the way. Music, drama, and dry comedy forming an amazing piece of cinema that has been voted the best Irish movie of all time – by Jameson Irish Whiskey. It also won the BAFTA for Best Film, but who’s to say which one is more prestigious than the other. Technically this isn’t really an underrated movie, but it’s sad how many people I know have no clue about the World’s Hardest Working Band. Subtitles strongly encouraged.

The Magdalene Sisters

I honestly was debating posting this film considering its rough subject matter, but it’s impossible not to discuss the history of Ireland without hitting depressing topics. Three girls in 1960’s Ireland are sent to an asylum for “fallen” women, said by their families and Catholic society to be nothing more than slutty sinners. The most horrific part is that one of the women was raped by her own cousin, only to have her father turn his back on her and accuse her of being the seductress in the scenario. She meets an unwed mother and an “overly flirtatious” virgin at Magdalene Asylum, but it soon becomes clear that their reformatory is more of a manual-labor prison as the girls are forced to work long hours and endure endless physical humiliation and abuse at the hands of their head nun. There’s nothing lighthearted about this film, but its messages of female strength and personal freedom are key. Can we now finally move on from slut-shaming?

The Matchmaker

On the subject of strong women, enter the hilarious Janeane Garofalo! An assistant to a Boston senator, Marcy Tizard is sent to Ireland with the task of finding his relatives in order to win over the Irish-American vote. She’s all work, work, work, but the town is all love! love! love! as she arrives just in time for the annual matchmaking festival. What conflict! Watching guys try to court the dry-witted and quotable Garofalo makes this an even charming rom-com for those not so big into the genre. The dude’s got an accent, so of course they get together in the end. She also never manages to find anything on her boss’s ancestors, but it’s not because of loveytime or anything. Turns out he wasn’t even Irish. FATE?!

What are you favorite movies about Ireland?

featured image courtesy of Ebert Fest

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