An Irish place

Jimmy’s Hall

Opens Friday, Aug. 21. Pageant Theatre. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

The title, Jimmy’s Hall, refers to a community center/dance hall that becomes the crucial location for an intense political and cultural drama erupting in a country town in Ireland in the 1930s. Named for its political-activist owner (Jimmy Gralton, played with gentle gravitas by Barry Ward), the hall is the main gathering place for local folk who are rebelling to one degree or another against the domination of the Catholic Church in their everyday lives in Depression-era Ireland.

Irish versions of Fascism, anti-Communism, religious extremism, sexism and violent repression come into play in the public sphere. At a personal but no less political level, Jimmy and the local priest (Father Sheridan, played by Jim Norton) engage in a couple of terse, intense moral debates, and Oonagh (Simone Kirby as another of the hall community’s leading lights) and Jimmy briefly and furtively revisit the romance that the circumstances of their lives have long since denied them.

Filmmaker Ken Loach, a politically intense realist in most of his work (Bread and Roses, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, etc.), brings a little more nostalgia and bittersweet sentiment than is usual for him. But maybe that’s his way of commenting on the present as well as the past in this case.