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cast: Ewan McGregor, Susan Lynch, Peter McDonald, Roberto Citran, and Andrew Scott

director: Pat Murphy

102 mins (15) 1999
Alliance Atlantis VHS rental

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
1904: country girl Nora flees her repressive relatives and a tragic affair, but finds only drudgery in gloomy Dublin. Then she meets a struggling writer named James Joyce. They flee to the tolerance of the continent, but their social differences and Joyce's jealousy threaten to destroy their happiness...
   Pat Murphy's period drama contains all the usual ingredients - frilly dresses, cute children, cobbled streets and sun-drenched Italian squares. But it also foregrounds a serious issue: women's liberation and the battle of the sexes. Its proto-feminist Nora leaves Ireland in search of freedom, but finds herself a dependant in a country where she doesn't even speak the language. She fights her way to fluency, motherhood, and social standing, but the very strengths that drew Joyce to her now threaten him. He continually asserts that he wants her to choose to stay with him, but every word she exchanges with another man provokes a fit of jealousy. He celebrates her past and her passion in his stories: she considers it a breach of trust. Even a century ago, it appears, men were from Mars and women from Galway...
   Susan Lynch's Nora combines sensuality with intelligence and a deep integrity, a woman at odds with her social class and her world. In the end, however, we lack the social context to truly understand the lovers' battle. Disapproving relatives and vindictive friends stay mainly off-screen, and without them, Joyce's wavering loyalties seem capricious, even vindictive. Ewan McGregor's performance also seems a little pedestrian for one of western literature's great rebels. This is an agreeable, enjoyable film striving to be more.

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