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The Mighty Celt
cast: Tyrone McKenna, Gillian Anderson, Ken Stott, and Robert Carlyle

director: Pearse Elliott

82 minutes (12) 2005
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Metrodome DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Fourteen-year-old Donal (Tyrone McKenna) spends most of his time working for greyhound racer Good Joe (Ken Stott), and dotes on the dogs. When he develops a particular attachment to a dog that loses its first race, he persuades Joe to let him retrain it. If the dog, now named The Mighty Celt, can win three races, repaying Joe's investment, Donal can keep it.

But in Northern Ireland, the past casts a long shadow, and Good Joe isn't quite the man he seems. When 'O' (Robert Carlyle), an IRA man on the run, returns home and re-enters the life of Donal and his jaded mother Kate (Gillian Anderson), the shadow of the Troubles is about to change Donal's life forever. This sharply observed story of a community struggling to find a new identity manages to be both hard-hitting and surprisingly uplifting. The performances are excellent, with Tyrone McKenna carrying the film expertly and without a hint of sentimentality, and Gillian Anderson is particularly moving as a woman exhausted by a war whose grief and consequences she has ended up carrying alone. (Though you do wonder whether there were really no Irish actors who could play the adult roles - particularly when listening to Ken Stott's sometimes-incomprehensible accent...)

A genuine sense of threat hangs over the whole film, with several events that may upset younger viewers, but the combination of its happy final scenes and short running time leaves you feeling there's something missing. The story has done its job almost too well: the villain has been built up into such a powerful figure that it's hard to believe he won't be taking his revenge before the credits have even finished rolling.

But that aside, this is an exceptional piece of British filmmaking that really gets inside a community many of us know only as a clich´┐Ż, a film realistic and hopeful in equal measure. The Mighty Celt is a great little film that deserves a wider audience.

DVD extras: documentary, and trailer.

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