Today's Special: Five movies for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We love this holiday — afterall, we’re green every day of the year! But today, Disc Dish is going Irish with five great movie picks from our friend and fellow movie lover Irish-American Janine McGoldrick.

So, pour yourself a pint of Guinness and pick one of the films below to watch this St. Paddy’s Day.

Take it away, Janine…

5. Man of Aran (1934)

Man of Aran movie scene

Man of Aran, 1934

At the suggestion of my brother, my family sat down for a viewing of Man of Aran before our first trip to Ireland. A documentary-style fiction from groundbreaking American filmmaker Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North), the film depicts the simple-yet-grueling life on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in the early 20th century. You won’t find the typical rolling green pastures filled with fluffy white sheep in this movie. The land is harsh and barren, and seaweed is layered on jagged rocks in an effort to create earth for a potato crop. Man of Aran can be tough viewing, with its long scenes, limited dialog and uneven, choppy editing. But there are moments that are genuinely thrilling — the epic shark hunt at the film’s climax will definitely get your heart beating. The Man of Aran highlights an amazing and lesser known part of Irish life and history that is definitely worth the watch, even if you’re not planning a trip to Eire.

Available on DVD from Homevision

4. The Field (1990)

The Field movie scene

The Field, 1990

If emerald meadows with grazing sheep are what you are after, then The Field fits the bill. But there’s much more to this film then just picturesque landscapes.  Director Jim Sheridan’s follow-up to his Academy Award-winning film My Left Foot, The Field, is a dark and tragic tale set in a small country village in post-famine Ireland. Bull McCabe (Richard Harris, Gladiator) and his family have spent years turning the rocky land he rents from the town widow into a beautiful green field suitable for grazing cattle. When the widow decides to sell the land at auction, McCabe expects no competition until a wealthy Irish-American developer (Tom Berenger, Inception) arrives to bid against him. A fierce battle for the land culminates in disastrous results. Harris’ portrayal of a man who is at once heartbreakingly sympathetic and viciously brutal is absolutely stunning and rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

Available on DVD from Lionsgate

3. Once (2006)

Once movie scene

Once, 1996

The Irish need love, too! Thus, the inclusion of this contemporary and unconventional romantic tale. Written and directed by John Carney (Zonad), Once tells the sweet tale of an Irish busker (Glen Hansard of the popular Irish rock band The Frames) who strikes up a relationship with a migrant flower seller  (Markéta Irglová) who is a musician, as well. Though these kindred spirits are suffering from personal disillusionment and romantic disappointments, they inspire each other, while spending a week writing and recording songs that reveal each of their unique stories. Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and Irglová composed and performed all of the music in the movie, winning them an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Falling Slowly.”  Because of the film’s small budget and tight production schedule (a mere 17 days), shooting permits weren’t a possibility, so many scenes were filmed in friend’s houses, and long lenses were used in public places to avoid attracting attention. This actually worked in the film’s favor, by easily conveying Dublin’s city life and providing an intimacy to the scenes along Grafton Street, the crowded pedestrian shopping district where the characters first meet.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

2. The Commitments (1991)

The Commitments movie scene

The Commitments, 1991

“I’m black and I’m proud.”  If that line means nothing to you, then shame on you for not having seen this film! The oft-recounted tale of a musical band forming then slowly beginning to succeed before it falls apart has never been this much fun. Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) aspires to manage the “world’s hardest working band” and collects a group of unemployed, white Irish misfits to sing — of all things — soul music. Under Jimmy’s direction and powerful vocals of lead singer Declan (Andrew Strong), a talented group begins to form, only to disintegrate in a clash of egos. British Director Alan Parker (Mississippi Burning) perfectly captures the gray and gritty neighborhoods of Dublin’s Northside, where kids run wild and abandoned cars litter the streets. The soul songs — amongst them, rousing renditions of “Mustang Sally,” “Try A Little Tenderness” and “In the Midnight Hour” — fit perfectly with these working-class characters who are looking for a way to escape hardship and fulfill their dreams. The casting of real musicians from Ireland only adds to the film’s authenticity and makes it impossible to resist. I dare you to not enjoy this marvelous movie.

Available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

1. The Secret of Roan Inish (1995)

The Secret of Roan Inish movie scene

The Secret of Roan Inish, 1995

This magical Irish fairy tale was adapted from Rosalie Fry‘s 1959 novel by the ultra-talented and severely under-appreciated filmmaker John Sayles (Lone Star). In the movie, 10-year-old Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is sent to reside with her grandparents in a small fishing village in Donegal, across from Roan Inish, the island where her family once lived. She soon learns of the local legends that her ancestor married a “selkie” — a seal who can turn human — and that her younger brother was swept away by the ocean in his infancy and is now being raised by selkies. At first skeptical by the myths, Fiona begins to realizes that they hold the key to reclaiming her family legacy. Writer/director/editor Sayles crafts a poignant, serious and utterly believable story that in other hands would have been just a cute fantasy for kids. Roan Inish has a real charm that prompts older viewers to suspend their disbelief and fall quickly under its spell. Scenic country sides and mystical Celtic folklore sprinkled with traditional Irish music — what more could you ask for on St. Patrick’s Day?

Available on DVD through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Tell us your favorite movies for St. Patrick’s Day…

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.