Middletown: Anchorage Film Festival review (Dec 2006)

Two brothers clash over views in Irish 'Middletown'


In James Joyce's memorable phrase (from his autobiographical novel "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"), the Irish are essentially a "priest-ridden race."

A kindred sentiment seems to emerge in "Middletown," an Anchorage International Film Festival feature that screens for its final time tonight at Fireweed Theatre.

But instead of taking the Catholic Church to task -- as Joyce's fictional father did in "Portrait" -- director Brian Kirk shines his spotlight on the lot of poor Protestants in Northern Ireland.

Specifically, he tells the story of two brothers, Jim, a hard-working loser who tries to help his dad, and Gabriel, the favored son and dour cleric -- played by Matthew Macfadyen (the male lead in "Pride and Prejudice") -- who leaves home as a missionary, then returns to become the new minister of the village's fundamentalist church.

The tension that ensues between Gabriel and Jim's wife, Carolyn -- a life-embracing barmaid who refuses to baptize her son -- builds to a high pitch in the finale, which left some members of the audience gasping. And others feeling relieved.

Daily News reporter George Bryson

Published: December 9, 2006