Adrian Dunbar, Belfast, Ciarán Hinds, Julie Walters, Michael McElhatton, Mickybo and Me, Northern Ireland
First there was Butch and Sundance. Then there was Thelma and Louise. And finally… Mickybo and Jonjo!
In order to see this film, I bought a multiregional DVD player, and I’m glad I did. The film gives you a vivid sense of what it was like to grow up in Belfast ca. 1970. I loved the way they showed that the look of the houses and people was actually still “early 60s”, not psychedelia and lava lamps. Jonjo’s Da sports an amusing pompadour hairdo, of which he seems inordinately proud, since he never misses a chance to check his hair.
Jonjo has a joyless life as an only child, sitting through silent meals with his unhappy parents, until he meets the tiny red firecracker that is Mickybo. These two child actors were incredible. Mickybo has what my Long-Suffering Husband called a “crabapple face,” always creasing in frowns or smiles. He’s the thrill-loving one, while Jonjo is more philosophical, yet irresistibly attracted to Mickybo’s energy. Their story made me laugh, and gasp, and in the end, cry. Throughout the film, it seemed to me that it was a personal story, and not about the Troubles, which seem peripheral to the boys’ fantasy life. By the end, though, the reality of the Troubles and their impact on young lives comes home to the viewer, in the most powerful way.
This started out as a play, but it seems utterly cinematic, with the two unlikely young friends, one Protestant and one Catholic, having quite an adventure in the Northern Irish countryside as they strike out for Australia. Game of Thrones favorite Michael McElhatton makes an entertaining appearance as a truck driver who gives them a lift. Julie Walters is a hoot as Mickybo’s dryly witty Mum, and Adrian Dunbar is handsome, charming and sad as Mickybo’s alcoholic Da. An unrecognizable Susan Lynch, her face plastered with makeup, plays the tarty love interest of Jonjo’s philandering, self-regarding Da.
There are a couple of sweet scenes between Jonjo and his Da. The ice cream shop where they share an illicit treat (anything illicit seems to be a specialty of Jonjo’s Da) is memorable, as is a scene where Da instructs Jonjo that you can always judge a man’s worth by the polish of his shoes. This happens as Da preens before the mirror, spreading his legs and leaning back to get a good view of himself, as tall men do… Another priceless scene happens when Mickybo, living out his Butch and Sundance fantasy, tries to rob a bank. The adults in the bank are so smitten with the fierce wee lad that they give him money, reminiscing all the while about old Westerns… not quite the effect Mickybo had intended, but he runs with it and squeezes out an extra offering for his partner, nervously waiting on the “getaway bicycle.”
The deleted scenes are excellent and add a bit more detail to the picture, especially with director Terry Loane’s comments. And the featurette has lovely scenes of Ciarán Hinds with product-free hair flopping over his face. I didn’t realize that a really impressive pompadour required so much hair to construct! You can tell this film had personal significance for him, since he grew up in Belfast. It’s a sweet, funny, heartbreaking story.