Every conventional notion about Ireland and its people is packed into “The Run of the Country,” but instead of an insightful look at the national character , what emerges is a sackful of melodramatic cliches. This expansive romance almost unavoidably has its colorful aspects, but accumulation of dire incidents unintentionally becomes almost comical in its predictability and is long-winded to boot. Impressionable teenagers conceivably fall under its spell, but general B.O. outlook is meager.
Shane Connaughton, who penned “The Playboys” and co-scripted “My Left Foot,” obviously knows whereof he speaks, writing once again of his native County Cavan and drawing a portrait of an almost timeless land where nothing ever really changes.
Albert Finney is back as a blustering, small-minded policeman who, big surprise, has trouble expressing his innermost feelings. Widowed as the tale begins, Father expects his handsome 18-year-old son, Danny (Matt Keeslar), to take over household duties, but the boy rebels by running away and staying a while at the farm of the scabrous, irrespressible Prunty (Anthony Brophy), who specializes in stirring things up wherever he goes.
Danny is in a fog about what to do with his life, but he knows what he wants once he sees Annagh (Victoria Smurfit), a lovely girl from a well-to-do family. They begin a slow courtship that liberates Danny’s heretofore hidden poetic spirit, but, after an incredibly insipid First Time in a forest glade, Annagh becomes pregnant, causing no end of trauma for both families.
In the meantime, the mischievous Prunty carries on with his shenanigans, which mount in seriousness until one’s early suspicions are confirmed that he’s been involved all along in clandestine political activities (County Cavan lies just south of the Northern Ireland border).
It’s all here in the material: reverence for the cherished dead mother, emotional constipation, religious constriction, irreverent humor, dreams of America, political violence, the cult of virginity, wild boasting, small-time dreams easily dashed and a broader sense of the perennial nature of things. Although set in the present, but for certain small details the story could take place just the same way in virtually any decade of the century.
Unfortunately, instead of trenchantly getting at the heart of Ireland pic transforms these arche-typal ingredients into hokey incidents that one can almost envision before they happen. Where a gritier, more deeply felt approach was called for, director Peter Yates lays it all out with a broad, banal hand, going for easy comedy and equally pedestrian dramatic effects. Some key scenes are just brushed by, given no greater weight than others of less significance.
Finney has literally played this part before, so, while convincing, his moves are becoming rather overfamiliar. Yank actor Keeslar makes for a brooding, striking-looking Danny, although the character could have been given a few attitudes and interests to give him more depth and contours. Smurfit projects intelligence and class as Annagh, but Brophy easily steals the picture as the grungy rascal Prunty.
Mike Southon’s widescreen location lensing provides much of the pleasure to be had here, although all tech credits are pro.