Cursed with a title that screams choked-up, 12-step ’90s self-obsession, This Is
My Father‘s main claim to
attention is its all-in-the-family credits: Aidan Quinn stars, brother Paul Quinn wrote and directed, brother Declan Quinn served as cinematographer, and all three coproduced. If that seems like a selling point to you, it’s your kind of movie.
A generational saga born of equal parts career-building
indie guile and heartfelt tribal bonding, the movie reveals
Taviani-like ambition, but the results are lackluster and tame. Full of deep, soft
shadows, pasty complexions, stormy skies, peat wagons,
and Catholic ordeal, the film seesaws between the present, in which lonely teacher James Caan goes to Ireland (with his snotty nephew Jacob Tierney) to discover who his father was, and 1939, when village nitwit Aidan Quinn and restless rich girl Moya Farrelly fall in love,
to widespread consternation.
Aidan Quinn as James Caan’s father? The casting
isn’t as ruinous as you’d expect (Caan is surprisingly gentle, even when he’s asked to do what actors should never do: talk to gravestones), but the script resorts to cliché and cheap shots too often to be seriously. It’s the kind
of movie in which every time somebody spills a drink in the present, they uncover a clue to the past while mopping up. Cameos by Stephen Rea as an irate and perverted priest and Brendan Gleeson as a local
cop are merely favors to their Michael Collins costars; then as now, Quinn’s brogue is
decidedly shaky. (An endearing bit by John Cusack as a hyperactive LIFE magazine photog landing his plane on the
Galway beach is beautifully
beside the story’s point.) Still, atmospherically shot (Declan photographed Leaving Las
Vegas) and sober about its
inevitable Irish stereotypes, the movie has sincerity to burn, and if you have paternal issues of your own, you may bawl.