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Ireland in the Movies

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Written by Charissa Roberson

On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s always fun to put on a good “Irish film” and enjoy the beautiful scenery and accents. However, some of America’s favorite (and most well-known) films about Ireland tend to be Hollywood versions of what Ireland is believed to be, and not the best representations of reality. 

For example, take the 2010 romcom “Leap Year” starring Amy Adams. Irish viewers slammed the film for depicting Ireland as a backward country where all the roads are made of dirt, plugging in a Blackberry can cut power to an entire town (Irish Post), and the residents are all “drunken, superstitious” country bumpkins who use stereotypical phrases like “top of the morning” (Hot Press). Furthermore, the actor who plays the main love interest is not even Irish, and his attempt at the accent risks confusing audiences further as to what a real Irish person sounds like.  

Another accent faux pas stands out in “P.S. I Love You,” a 2007 romantic drama starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Despite having Irish heritage, Butler’s “Irish accent” is known for being one of the absolute worst captured on film. Additionally, Butler’s character perpetuates the stereotypical image of Irish men: “He drinks, he sings, he kisses girls, he knows his way around the grassy hills of Dun Laoghaire (?!), and he even wears boxers with four-leafed clovers (note: not Shamrocks) on them” (HeadStuff).  

Hollywood classic “Far and Away” (1982), which stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, features another butchered accent and “some of the most astoundingly awful and brilliant dialogue you’re ever likely to hear” (Movies.ie). One of the finest examples is the film’s infamous line, “You’re a corker!”—a phrase that no Irish person has ever come close to uttering.  

Despite Hollywood’s tendency to romanticize, oversimplify, and sometimes even patronize Ireland in cinema, there are numerous Irish films that are just as enjoyable, and present a more realistic depiction of the country and its culture. If you’re looking for a romance, check out “Once” (2007) directed by Irishman John Carney, which follows two aspiring musicians in Dublin as they struggle to fulfill their dreams. If drama is more your style, “My Left Foot” (1989) tells the true story of a working-class Irishman with cerebral palsy who becomes both an author and an artist.  If you want to learn more about Ireland’s complex history—and listen to some truly authentic and lovely Cork accents—try the 2006 war drama “The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” which stars A-list actors you might not know are Irish (Cillian Murphy and Liam Cunningham). 

Although Ireland may be different from the land of luck and leprechauns that Hollywood often portrays it to be, the real Emerald Isle is just as fascinating, gorgeous, and enchanting in its own right.