In the Name of the Father is one of the few films for which Daniel Day-Lewis does not have an oscar. it is, however, a film which warrants his having what would have been the second out of four. and this is to say that his performance in this classic drama on the troubles in Northern Ireland is absolutely stunning. he brought to life the pain of a man trapped in a prison cell with his father – a situation both were condemned to, in spite of their innocence.
it starts off by setting Day-Lewis’s character, Gerry Conlon, as a bit of a troublemaker in the harsh streets of Belfast. and when the IRA attempts to give Gerry a sterner warning than usual, his father Giuseppe comes to save him, though not without giving Gerry a talking to of his own. the relationship between them is made clear within the first ten minutes. and it is this harsh, but at times delicate love that tempers the rest of the film.
when Gerry leaves to look for work in London, he, along with three others, gets accused of having bombed a pub under the instruction of the IRA. though he had nothing to do with the bombing, a law passed just a week before his arrest – the British police may now hold terror suspects for seven days without just cause or evidence – enables officers of the law to coerce him into a confession. so, under the assumption that they would otherwise kill his father, Gerry confesses to killing five people. in his name, it seems then. the British police then arrest and convict his mother’s family (the Maguire Seven) by using evidence that cannot be anything more than circumstantial (they had to look for traces of nitrate in washing up gloves). his father gets a sentence too. Gerry and Giuseppe are then seen within the confines of the same cell. but fret not, a few emotional turns later, Gerry does end up triumphant.
what is important to note is that even through the Day-Lewis’s relative youth, you can see a sort of intensity burning behind his eyes. for example, despite identifying as an irish person, he set aside his english accent for a convincing Northern Irish one. and the accent served as only one of the many features of the portrayals of these real live people which lent to the excellence of a film that though some said had been overdone, most others could only greet with overwhelming acclaim. its an experience I highly recommend, if not for its entertainment value, then for its necessity. you just have to know what happened, and this is as good as any a way to find out.