Originally released in 1995, but now reissued in a ‘deluxe edition’, replete with a separate soundtrack CD and 32-page booklet, this documentary ‘story of Irish emigration to America’ has not fared well over the passage of time.
It certainly did not help that the original film was riddled with historical inaccuracies (none corrected subsequently) and cinematography which still seems to grasp for every clichéd image of ‘Auld Ireland’, the latter no doubt in a deliberate attempt to pander to the heartstrings and pockets of Irish descendants in North America.
To describe the film’s direction as wooden should be regarded as an insult to trees, to consider its content (especially the leaden narrative style of the voice-over Kelly McGillis) as trite would not suffice to do justice to the word. This is simply one hell of a green-eyed ex-pat rewriting of Irish history which deserves to be dumped in the nearest bargain bin and left there to rot.
True, there are occasional telling insights related to the exigencies faced by Irish emigrants (both in terms of the conditions at home which led to their exile and those often dire circumstances which they faced on arrival in North America), but the overall concoction is a cloying mass of tugging sentiment (exacerbated by the portentous readings from contemporary letters by actors such as Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne).
The separate soundtrack CD only proves how inappropriate (far too modern in terms of arrangement) the original music was in the first place.
This review by Geoff Wallis was written for Songlines magazine – www.songlines.co.uk.