A highly political film with no overt political agenda, “Silent Grace” dramatizes the unreported participation of women in the IRA prison protests and hunger strikes of 1980-81. Assured helming by newcomer Maeve Murphy, unflagging pace, well-developed characters, and strong perfs throughout make for a solid if slightly old-fashioned meller centered around the relationship between a charismatic IRA activist (Orla Brady) and her young joyrider cellmate (Cathleen Bradley). “Grace,” skedded for U.K. release in March, seems a good fit for cable Stateside.
Insisting she’s a provost out of sheer contrariness, wild child Bradley is thrown in with jail’s politicos in a secret effort to destabilize them. Despite depressing, downright unappetizing subject matter (in the “dirty” protests against inhumane conditions, prisoners refused to wash and smeared cell walls with their own excrement) and unrelieved spatial constriction of Dublin’s Kilmainham Jail, Murphy keeps action bubbling nicely through intense, shifting bonding among the women and barbed interplay with the conflicted warden mandated to “break” them. Brady’s fierce intelligence and luminous beauty make her near-death particularly resonant, and Bradley’s funky, irrepressible brashness brings a note of defiant energy to the locked-away sisterhood.