Monday 22 January 2018

Life is grim down on the farm for poor old Jimmy

Paul Whitington

Film Review: Pilgrim Hill (12A, limited release, 85 minutes) ***

Director: Gerard Barrett Stars: Joe Mullins, Keith Byrne, Muiris Crowley

Call me gullible, but for the first half hour or so of Gerrard Barrett's Pilgrim Hill, I thought I was watching a documentary – and a pretty depressing one at that.

Sporting a bad moustache and the threadbare working clothes of a small farmer, Jimmy (Joe Mullins) speaks sadly to camera about his sorry and joyless existence.

Although he once dreamed of travelling or at least finding himself a wife, he's now tied to the tiny and not especially productive farm he inherited from his father.

He rises at dawn and works till dusk, tending his dairy herd, mending his fences and caring for his father, who still lives with him and, although we never actually see him, sounds like a bitter old pill.

Even though he's a bit of a moaner, Jimmy seems so real that you instantly sympathise with him, and the first 40 minutes or so of Barrett's moody and nicely photographed film movingly illustrates the hard lives of smallholders.

Jimmy's one solace is a weekly trip to the nearest village for "the few pints". But when he's stopped by a cop one night and breathalysed, even this small consolation seems threatened.

And that's only the start of his problems, for in the second half of Pilgrim Hill the poor farmer is lashed with so much misfortune that he begins to seem like Ireland's answer to Jonah.

None of Jimmy's woes, however, produce anything much in the way of engaging drama.

His problems are plonked artlessly on his head one after the other, so that Pilgrim Hill ultimately becomes a pointless exercise in nihilism.

Such promising possibilities as an onscreen confrontation between father and son go inexplicably unexplored, to the detriment of a well-made film that could have been a lot better.

Irish Independent

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