‘Work for need, not for greed,’ says Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) in Jimmy’s Hall. We can see that he’s the complete opposite of Gordon Gekko of ‘Greed is Good’ fame in the film Wall Street. And he is ahead of his time; the film is set in 1932.
Jimmy Gralton, a communist who emigrated to America, has just returned to his home village in Eire. Eire has been independent from the UK for some ten years but is still living under the yoke of repressive Catholicism. Gralton opposes this power by building ‘Jimmy’s Hall’. A hall where the villagers can borrow books, take music lessons, and can sing and dance. It’s the dancing in particular that gets up the noses of the Catholic leaders; they believe that singing, dancing and jazz music are tricks of the devil designed to lead young people astray. The Church and the economic elite use ever more intimidating means to take action again the supposed excesses, and Jimmy’s Hall. Naturally, they are fearful of the self-development that Gralton has in mind for the villagers.
With Jimmy’s Hall, Ken Loach proves himself once again to be a consummate storyteller. This time he’s working with a beautifully styled costume drama based on historical facts. As in others of his films, Loach shows us clearly who he believes to be in the wrong. But not everything is black and white. For example, the village priest excels in hellfire sermons and angry glances, but is also happy to listen to jazz songs when he’s drunk. The dance scenes, which serve to lighten the mood, are enjoyable and catchy.