A family, fiddles and feuds

The New York TimesMarch 25, 2005 

Everyone is likable in John Irvin's appealing, if obvious, fable about two estranged brothers and their ceili, or traditional Irish bands.

That includes the supposed bad guy, Jimmy (Colm Meaney), who left Ireland for Liverpool 24 years ago to make money and acquire several wives, and his brother John Joe (Bernard Hill), who stayed home to run the family farm and never married.

The other significant characters are Anne (Andrea Corr), a pretty young fiddler in John Joe's ceili (pronounced KAY-lee) group, and her mother, Maisie (Charlotte Bradley), who has somehow managed never to tell Anne the identity of her father.

Everyone will come together during the finals of the All-Ireland music competition, which each brother believes his group deserves to win, with the complicating addition of Teddy (Shaun Evans), a handsome young member of Jimmy's band who falls for Anne at first sight.

The time is the 1960s, which is made clear by occasional mentions of the Beatles (whom the older generation seems to think are jazz musicians) and the presence as minor characters of hippies in a van with a psychedelic paint job. Otherwise, this Ireland of pubs and pranks seems to exist in a warm travel-industry timelessness. In Nicholas Adams' script, both sides play dirty tricks (stolen bus wheels and musical instruments, silly delays at customs), with the goal of keeping the other band from competing. It isn't necessary to state a theme, but Jimmy does. Encountering his brother for the first time in decades, he says, "And you know full well this isn't just about the music." Predictably, at least one family secret will be revealed.

Corr is a member of the Irish musical group the Corrs. Her previous movie acting experience has consisted of small roles in "Evita" (as Juan Peron's mistress) and "The Commitments." She displays considerable screen presence here.

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