This post was first published on Culturewatch as part of the Film & Bible Blog. © Tony Watkins 2013. For discussion material on this film, see my Damaris Film Blog discussion guide and the supplementary questions in the published version of this article in the Film & Bible Blog. Some of us have known Jesse and Celine for a long time….
The troubles in Northern Ireland are a very sensitive subject for a film. The worst of the violence is still a recent memory, with many families across the province continuing to live with the grief of having lost a loved one to guns and bombs. A film which takes one side will be anathema to the other, and one which tries not to take sides stands a good chance of annoying everyone. But staying neutral was exactly what writer/director Kari Skogland believed she had to do with her retelling of the true story of Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess). Skogland is a Canadian and so very much an outsider looking in. Being an outsider has the advantage of allowing one to stand back and reflect coolly on what both sides of the conflict are saying. But it can also lead to an inadequate understanding of the complexities of the situation. Skogland felt that by maintaining neutrality, she would force the audience to make up their own minds about what happened, but her film has prompted criticisms that it is too pro-IRA, most notably from McGartland himself.