The Run of the Country

Filmed in County Cavan, in a village south of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, this coming-of-age tale has a raw beauty that is enough to grab your attention. It'll have to be enough since little else in the lollygagging script by Shane Connaughton, who co-wrote My Left Foot, rises above the achingly familiar.

Eighteen-year-old Danny, played by Michigan-born Matt Keesler, has been restless since the death of his mother. His father (Albert Finney), a local sergeant, is a hard-ass who expects Danny to take his wife's place as cook and housekeeper until it's time to go to college in Dublin. Danny has other plans. He runs off with his wild friend Prunty — Anthony Brophy in the film's liveliest performance — and falls in love with Annagh Lee (Irish-born Victoria Smurfit), a north-of-the-border colleen with fire in her eyes and tongue. Skinny-dipping leads to sex, which leads to pregnancy, which leads to decision making about marriage or abortion, which leads to a sudsy plot as old as time.

For additional conflict, Connaughton throws in Irish Republican Army politics, an accidental death, and a tar and feathering for Danny that looks convincingly painful. The young leads are both attractive and play their stock roles as if they were freshly minted. But the formidable Finney, one of the finest actors on the planet, is wasted in a role that calls for him to bluster and break down at predictable intervals. The Run of the Country, a title meant to evoke the freedom of youth, marks the first teaming of Finney with British director Peter Yates since both won well-deserved Oscar nominations for The Dresser, in 1984. You go into this movie waiting for fireworks and leave it thinking. "Is that all there is?"

From The Archives Issue 205: January 29, 1976