The award-winning My Left Foot duo of writer/director Jim Sheridan and star Daniel Day-Lewis have reteamed to tell the real-life story of Gerry Conlon, an Irishman who spent 15 years in a British prison before his wrongful sentence was overturned. It’s highly political, inflammatory, partisan, and far from comforting.
Gerry Conlon was arrested for the 1974 IRA bombing of a bar in Guildford that killed five people. On the basis of coerced confessions, Conlon, his friend Paul Hill and two others who came to be known as the Guildford Four were convicted and sentenced to long terms, as were other completely innocent bystanders, including Conlon’s own father and aunt, who were charged with conspiracy. It wasn’t until 1989 that the convictions were overturned, forced by the revelation that crucial evidence that would have exonerated the defendants had been deliberately withheld by the Crown.
The filmmakers have invigorated and enriched the story [based on Conlon’s book Proved Innocent] through the use of a thousand details, a strong sense of time and place, outstanding characterizations and a display of energy and cinematic flair that marks an advance on My Left Foot.
Pic reaches its actorly heights in the intense, intimate scenes between Day Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite, as the former conveys Gerry’s growth in the face of deep despair and frustration while the latter reveals innate qualities previously unsuspected in the father. Both thesps are utterly first-rate.
In a decidedly secondary role, Emma Thompson is the picture of a single-minded crusader, and Corin Redgrave scores as the hissable British heavy who railroads the Irish suspects.
1993: Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Supp Actor (Pete Postlethwaite), Supp. Actress (Emma Thompson), Adapted Screenplay, Editing