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Silent Grace
cast: Orla Brady, Cathleen Bradley, Conor Mullen, Cara Seymour, and Patrick Bergin

writer, producer and director: Maeve Murphy

81 minutes (15) 2004 widescreen ratio 16:9
Guerilla DVD Region 0 rental / retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
"The untold story of women's involvement in the notorious 1980-1 Dirty Protest and hunger strikes." Hmm... not the most obvious film choice for a night-in.

Murphy's film about Republican women prisoners is told through the at-first unlikely friendship between IRA henchwoman Eileen (Orla Brady), and convicted non-political joyrider, Áine (Cathleen Bradley).

This indie film is described as "strong and provocative" on the jacket of the DVD cover. Provocative? Yes. Smearing faeces over the walls and refusing to wash is a sure fire way to grab attention. Strong? No. This film is slow and boring, to be brutally honest. For a weighty subject, Silent Grace's script is lightweight. The most interesting aspect of the film - the compassion shown to IRA henchwoman Eileen from prison governor (Conor Mullen) - is glossed over. It is never actually clear until the end of the film that Eileen is on a hunger strike and the political manoeuvrings to end the 'Dirty Protests' are never explored. Orla Brady is a fantastic actress (I first saw her in a compelling 1999 BBC drama called Pure Wickedness, along with Kevin Whately and David Morrisey) but her role in this film is not developed enough. Likewise, Cathleen Brady is not allowed the room as Áine to show how she became sympathetic to the Republican cause; she simply listens to a lecture from Brady and joins in the Dirty Protest, albeit gagging whilst doing it.

I was lured into viewing Silent Grace because Patrick Bergin (Sleeping With The Enemy) is in it. Unfortunately, it is well in to the film that he appears and only for a few minutes as an IRA man visiting Eileen. (I should have taken more notice of the credit, 'and Patrick Bergin' and guessed that he would only be making a cameo appearance.)

I wanted to like this film. I wanted to become more informed about a 'piece of forgotten Irish history'; the only feeling I had was relief when it ended.

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