Superb acting and austere visual beauty are offset by a somewhat overheated screenplay in this tragic tale [from the play by John B. Keane] about an indomitable Irish peasant's blood ties to the land.
Superb acting and austere visual beauty are offset by a somewhat overheated screenplay in this tragic tale [from the play by John B. Keane] about an indomitable Irish peasant’s blood ties to the land.
Richard Harris is in the larger-than-life role of a patriarchal Irish tenant farmer with a ferocious temperament and blazing charisma. The time is the 1930s, when the memory of the great famine was fresh and feudal ways held sway in the Irish countryside.
For most of his life, Bull McCabe has farmed a field belonging to a wealthy widow (Frances Tomelty), who one day decides to sell the plot. Bull is outraged.
He holds in thrall his slow-witted son Tadgh (Sean Bean) and even slower-witted crony Bird O’Donnell (John Hurt). The suicide of another son during the famine still haunts Bull, and his wife Maggie (Brenda Fricker) has not spoken to him in the 20 years since.
‘Who would insult me by bidding for my field?’ he demands at the local pub. No one but an Irish-American from Boston (Tom Berenger), who has returned to his ancestral village with a plan to pave Bull’s field for an access road to lucrative limestone deposits.
Harris gives a resonant, domineering performance as the prideful peasant, casting him as a pagan throwback who views God and nature as one. Incredibly disguised, Hurt is remarkable as the pathetic village idiot who lives for the reflected glory of the most fearsome man in town.
1990: Nomination: Best Actor (Richard Harris)