Paddywhackery The worst depictions of Ireland in film

Begosh and begorrah, sure

Well, be the hokey Saint Patrick, we’ll be wanting to mark that occasion here at Heavens preserve us, look at them with their Yank ways: what’s wrong with calling it ‘fillums’ to be sure, to be sure…? 

Ok I give up. I’m exhausted keeping up that Oirish shtick even for a couple of paragraphs, so I really must tip my hat to Hollywood for persevering enough to spend entire months transmuting that very same paddywhackery into celluloid form.

And so, although it was a gruelling experience, and at times we were tempted to pack the whole thing in and rescind our citizenship out of pure mortification, here is our far-from-definitive (for it would take too long) guide to five of the worst offenders when it comes to cinematic depictions of Ireland. Erin Go Brath, and may the luck of the shillelagh keep the banshee from your door.

5) Waking Ned:
Set in Ireland but actually filmed in the Isle of Man, the plot of Waking Ned centres around two old chancers (played by Ian Bannen and David Kelly) in the village of Tullymore (not to be confused with Tullamore – we think) and their outlandish scheme to claim the winning Lotto ticket of their deceased elderly pal. Surprisingly – depressingly – well-received by critics, Ned trades almost exclusively in clichés about Irish people being stupid, gormless gombeens, but sure aren’t we loveable all the same at all, at all? It’s enough to leave you gnawing on your nearest sod of turf.


4) PS I Love You:

And we thought Bertie was the only Ahern family member to accuse of complicity in recklessly lowering Ireland’s standing in the eyes of the wider international community. This woeful adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s bestseller gets it wrong from the start with leading (dead) man Gerard Butler’s hapless “Gaylick” accent, hastening the Rose of Tralee-style moment when the ‘Scottish Guy Mangling an Irish Brogue’ crown passed to him from long-reigning sash wearer, Sean Connery (care of The Untouchables and Darby O’Gill).

After an excruciating New York-based first act that revels in the worst excesses of Irish-American blarney (playing ‘Fairytale of New York’ at a funeral – really?), Hilary Swank and pals arrive to stay in a fairytale cottage in an Irish countryside so scenic, verdant and unspoiled that you’d honestly expect to find an interactive link to the Bord Failte website amidst the DVD’s extras. Said gal pals proceed to enjoy a night out in famous Wexford St hostelry Whelans, or as it’s rechristened here, “Whale-ans”. That alone, surely, is evidence enough to indict PS I Love You on charges of crimes against Irish humanity.


3) The Quiet Man/Darby O’Gill and the Little People:

Unfair, perhaps, to pair them up together, but these two vintage flicks have proved to be amongst the most enduring of Hollywoodised Oirish claptrap. In the former, dancing leprechauns and mad banshees are as prevalent in the Kerry village of Rathcullen as the pints of Guinness, fair colleens and dodgy Sean Connery Irish accents, while in the latter, John Wayne plays the Irish-American coming home to Ireland to reclaim his land and “woo” (i.e. force himself upon) feisty local lass Maureen O’Hara. Sample quote: “Sir, here’s a good stick – to beat the lovely lady”.


2) Far and Away:

“Oh you’re a corker Shannon! What a corker you are!” The default movie we all come to when looking for a modern filmic incarnation of every imaginable Irish cliché and stereotype, this star vehicle for then golden couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman is a guilty pleasure of epic proportions.
The Cruiser – don’t sue us Tom, we’re referring to your nickname! – stars as Joseph Donnelly, of the family Donnelly, a poor 19th century Irish urchin who swans off to Amerikay with uptight landlords-daughter Protestant – oh the scandal! – Shannon Christie (Kidman).
The movie charts the love-across-the-class-divides couple’s attempts to make their fortune on the golden-paved streets of Boston by way of bare-knuckle boxing, the Oklahoma Land Run of 1893, and some of the most astoundingly awful and brilliant dialogue you’re ever likely to hear (“Tell me ya like me hat!”)

1) Leap Year:

It really is hard to know where to begin with this one, arguably the most ridiculous, patronising, and retrograde representation of today’s Ireland you’re ever likely to see.

Honestly, watching Amy Adams’ hideous American singleton travelling across “Eye-yore-land” to propose to her boyfriend – after landing here by dinghy from Wales, somehow or other – aided and abetted by toothless, tweed-cap-wearing hicks, God-fearing B&B owners transplanted directly from the Archbishop McQuaid era, and an Aran-sweater-sporting rugged type (think Miley Byrne on a Clinique regime), you’d swear the Celtic Tiger never happened at all (erm, in that one regard, maybe it’s not too unrealistic after all).

Star Matthew Goode later conceded that Leap Year is a giant steaming pile of shite, and indeed this movie’s very existence has caused a cosmic breach that will exact karmic retribution from the otherwise wonderful Amy Adams by preventing her from winning an Oscar or any other major prize for at least a decade. Its only – only – redeeming feature is that it surely marks the first – and probably last – time in film history where the leading man in a Hollywood project is named Declan.


Other dishonourable mentions:
The Most Fertile Man in Ireland, The Tiger’s Tale, The Closer You Get, About Adam, Holy Water, High Spirits, Patriot Games, Blown Away, The Devils Own.

Happy Saint Patricks Day Y’all!

Words – Declan Cashin