"I don't understand your language. "Justice." "Mercy." "Clemency." I literally don't understand what those words mean."
If I had to describe this film using only one adjective I would say it is an enraging movie. Jim Sheridan followed his successful directorial debut, My Left Foot, by teaming up once again with Daniel Day Lewis who delivers yet another superb performance. I'm ashamed to admit that I just got around to watching this film for the first time on its 20th anniversary, but it was completely worth it because I was blown away by this powerful and engaging film. I wouldn't call this a groundbreaking film because we've had plenty of movies dealing with similar themes. Films like The Hurricane or The Shawshank Redemption deal with the kind of social injustice that is presented here where an innocent man is incarcerated due to a corrupt justice system. In the Name of the Father differs a bit in that it doesn't focus so much on the hope of finding freedom, but rather on the enraging aspect of the injustice that the lead character and his family and friends go through. This is a genre that I'll always be drawn too, especially when it is based on a true story because I think these people deserve to have their voice heard after all they've gone through. I know that several artistic liberties were taken to make the film, but even so it draws attention to Gerry Conlon's autobiographical book. Sheridan's direction was solid, and I liked how he focused a lot of the attention on the father and son relationship. I don't know if this film would've worked as well as it did if it weren't for Daniel Day Lewis's brilliant performance. He is without a doubt one of the best actors of our time.
Gerry Conlon (Daniel Day Lewis) grew up in Belfast in the 70's when the IRA terrorist attacks were at its peak. He was never involved with the terrorist group, but he was no saint either. As a young lad he felt forced to become a small time thief due to the lack of employment. While robbing some lead sheets from a roof of a house he accidentally leads British soldiers to a home that was hiding IRA weapons. Fortunately they never discovered anything, and the IRA members send Gerry off with a warning. His father, Giuseppe (Pete Postlethwaite), with whom he's had an estranged relationship, sends him to London hoping he can find a better future there and escape from all the political turmoil. On his way to London, Gerry runs into his school friend Paul Hill (John Lynch) and together they decide to go visit their friend Patrick Armstrong (Mark Sheppard) who has been living in London along with a group of free spirited hippies. Unfortunately for Gerry and his friends, they end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and are accused of bombing a soldier's pub. Bullied by the police officers they are forced into signing a confession and are sentenced to prison along with some of Gerry's family members. In prison, Gerry and his father continue to fight to prove their innocence with the help of an attorney named Gareth Pierce (Emma Thompson) and the more she digs into the story the more corruption she finds in the police procedures.
The film manages to draw you in and make your blood boil due to all the injustices suffered by these characters. It is one of those movies where the tension builds up with the passing of time, but at the same time you also feel a connection growing between Gerry and his father. The film becomes more than a simple social injustice tale and turns into a character driven story focusing on the relationship between father and son. It is a shame the film has kind of been forgotten because I thought it was really well made. It never won an Academy Award, but it did receive 7 nominations including Best Picture, losing out to Schindler's List that year. Daniel Day Lewis outshines everyone in this film, although the supporting cast was very strong, especially Pete Postlethwaite who shared great chemistry with Lewis. This was an intense film that had me at the edge of my seat thanks to the way in which Sheridan tells the story and slowly draws the viewer in. The final 20 minutes of this film are perfect and Daniel Day Lewis knocks his performance out of the ball park.