Bill’s Wife Knows Best Marathon: Into The West (1992)

Ireland truly is a very, um, uh, eclectic, yeah that’s the word I’m looking for, place!

Written By: David Keating & Jim Sheridan
Directed By: Mike Newell

I wasn’t prepared for the type of movie that Into The West ended up being. I knew nothing about the movie going into it, yet for some reason I expected a movie full of shots of the lush Irish countryside and kids having an adventure with a horse. I sort of got both of those aspects, but in nowhere near the manner I expected. I’m not sure why I formed the expectation that I did, but it certainly made the actuality of what Into The West was quite jarring.

Grime and despair mark the landscape of Into The West. Far from your normal fairy tale, Into The West is a fairy tale where the world has gone to shit and there’s no hope to be found. The scariest aspect of this is that it’s not a fairy tale, Into The West presents startling images of the slums that have for years been a part of the unseen Ireland. I’m not sure how many of these slums were/are full of gypsies who parade around wild horses on a regular basis. But, there are parts of Ireland as dirty and grimy as those Into The West is willing to show and that definitely flies in the face of the picturesque Ireland that exists in the minds of most people.

It takes Mike Newell a while to find his footing in Into The West. He spends most of the film on precarious ground, teetering very close to the edge on numerous occasions. The reason for this is the fairy tale elements of the film, or to use a more apt description, the magical realism that is infused into the movie. The magical elements of Into The West never truly mesh with the gritty realism of the slums. Maybe the horse and the magic was supposed stick out in the way it did, but the lack of cohesion between the two main elements of the film did bother me.

By the time Into The West has finished it becomes obvious what the subject matter is that the film was most interested in tackling. To be honest I quite liked the roundabout way Into The West looked at the ideas of family, coming together, staying true to your past, as well as moving on. The movie never delves into any of those themes deeply enough, but it did mull over its themes enough for me to be satisfied when Mr. Newell finally got around to revealing the films true themes just before the credits rolled.

I wasn’t completely bowled over by Into The West, but I did enjoy the film. It’s disparate elements never quite come together, but the end product is still a satisfying watch. The themes of the film are tried and true “this is what matters in life” types of themes, but the resolution of those themes is handled in a fresh way. My expectations of what the film was going to be may have been off, and the film may not have gelled together in the best way, but I still enjoyed Into The West. And hey, for the first time in this marathon, I think this is true at least, my wife didn’t pick a movie with lots of naked boobies on display, how rude!

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

Sarah’s Soapbox

I remember watching Into The West as a kid. We owned it on VHS and it was one of the tapes that was nearly worn out from being watched, rewound, and watched again countless times. I enjoy the elements of Ireland that it showed. Because despite living in a grimy slum with an alcoholic father, the brothers have a wonderful adventure that seems like the classic fairy tale that I am used to viewing when I watch a film set in Ireland. The movie makes childhood seem magical even in the most unpleasant settings.

Viewing Into The West for the first time as an adult I found that I was still in love with the horse Tirnanog. It is never given a voice or very strong anthropomorphic features. Yet, I loved Tiranog just as much, if not more, than any of the anthropomorphic animals that are often present in the fantasy films I love.

Into The West has a different feeling than many of the adventure and fantasy films I am used to. Despite the magic involved Into The West almost seems realistic because of the grim views it portrays of the way of life of the struggling lower class in Ireland. This film mixes adult and childlike sensibilities in such a way that it is a fantasy film both age groups can enjoy. Into The West is a film that I will always enjoy.

Rating:

***

-Sarah

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