It’s 1916 and Rosie Ryan (played by Sarah Miles) is the beautiful and innocent teenage daughter of village publican Thomas Ryan (by Leo McKern) in the remote windswept village of Kirrary on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Although it is far flung, even the remote little village is affected as World War 1 rages in Europe and the political upheaval between the British and Irish continues. A British Army Camp is based on the outskirts of town from whence the soldiers “keep the peace” in the village and frequent Thomas Ryan’s local establishment. An only child, raised by her caring but busy and politically active father, Rosie’s head is full of romantic dreams and she is hopelessly in love with the village schoolmaster, Charles Shaughnessy (by Robert Mitchum). Although there is an age difference, Rosie is besotted with Shaughnessy and he is flattered by her attention, so Father Collins (by Trevor Howard) marries them and they both move into the Schoolhouse in the village. Charles is a stoic and upright fellow with deep religious beliefs and an austere pious lifestyle – which doesn’t quite match Rosie’s expectations of married life. One day, she is suddenly aware of the handsome but deeply troubled Group Captain Randolph Doryan (by Christopher Jones) who has just arrived in the village to take command of the British post. A secret and passionate affair ensues and through the inadvertant actions of the town’s mute, Michael (by John Mills), the couple are discovered. A shipwreck and drama involving Irish Revolutionaries lead by Tim O’Leary (by Barry Foster) causes upheaval in the town which results in Rosie being ostracised by the locals for her traiterous illicit affair. This has far reaching and life changing consequences for everyone involved and the town will never be the same again ….
This is one of those good “sunday afternoon” movies, one to watch when you feel like a straightforward, but very good story filled with drama, mystery, betrayal, romance and glorious scenery. It could almost be termed a “period” drama as the styling and costumes are perfect for the bleak, wartime Irish village – at the mercy of the weather and the sea, with rugged countryside and rugged personalities to match. Best performances are by Trevor Howard as Father Collins, the only person who seems to wield any authority in the village – and by John Mills who is just extraordinary as Michael, the village mute who is a simple-natured man but subject to incessant and cruel bullying by the bored youngsters in the village. His performance is magnificent and in 1971 he was rewarded with the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this outstanding work. He really is to be seen to be believed – unrecognisable as the suave and smooth John Mills we have come to know in other roles. The cinematography is beautful work, which was also recognised in the 1971 Academy Awards. Sarah Miles is beautifully cast as the innocent Irish Rose, as are Robert Mitchum and Leo Mckern. Their support performances are very strong – the entire cast is to be congratulated for this. Overall it is very good indeed. I like it – well done David Lean.
Made in 1970. Directed by David Lean