“In spite of The Beatles,” reads the introductory title card, “one man keeps the faith.” Any music-minded film that treats the Fab Four as anathema won’t win awards for scholastic aptitude, but John Irvin’s Miramaxy paean to Irish Ceili music gets by on infectious geniality. After 20 years of willful estrangement, two middle-aged brothers—a caddish Liverpudlian huckster (Colm Meaney) and a hayseed (Bernard Hill) who never left bucolic Ireland—converge in their birthplace to duke it out in a nationwide music competition. The film shouldn’t work; all Ceili music sounds the same, nullifying the potential frisson of the competition, and both major plot revelations are obvious from the get-go. But the rakish transients and wistful inhabitants of County Clare confront the past honestly and organically, calling to mind the humanist whimsy of Bill Forsyth.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2005