Into the West is a likable but modest pic about two Dublin moppets who take to the hills on a beautiful white stallion. Scripter Jim Sheridan, whose My Left Foot and The Field showed outsiders coping inspiringly with the real world, works with thinner material [a story by Michael Pearce] this time round.
Gabriel Byrne is Papa Reilly, a modern-day gypsy ‘traveller’ (hobo) who’s finally settled in a grim, high-rise nabe of Dublin with his two kids, Tito (Ruaidhri Conroy) and Ossie (Ciaran Fitzgerald). His fanciful old father-in-law (David Kelly) captures the brats’ imagination with elaborate fairy tales woven around a white horse he’s brought back.
When the kids move the equine into their ramshackle apartment, the law moves in and sells it to a rich farmer. The kids promptly steal it back and set out for the ‘wild’ west of Ireland, fired by grandpa’s stories and cowboy movies. Byrne, joined by fellow ‘traveller’ Kathleen (Ellen Barkin), sets out in hot pursuit, closely followed by the authorities.
A major asset throughout is Patrick Doyle’s rich, Gaelic-flavoured scoring that carries the movie’s emotional line and fairy tale atmosphere.
Byrne gives a credible, if low-key, rendering of the weak, illiterate father. Barkin downplays her looks and carries off an Irish accent with aplomb. The real stars are the two kids, notably Fitzgerald as the younger bro.