THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH is a lovely fairy tale set in an isolated
island off the Irish coast. The land is bleak and breathtaking and the
cinematography (Haskell Wexler) shows it off without ever overpowering
a simple story. Similarly the hunting Irish music (Mason Daring) sets
the mood without ever dominating a scene.
A supposedly true fable is told to Fiona (Jeni Courtney), a
ten-year-old girl, by her Grandfather (Mick Lally). Her
grandmother (Eileen Colgan) does not approve of Fiona hearing any
of the story.
Her grandfather tells her that they had to evacuate their long
time home on the island of Roan Inish a few years back and move to the
coast not far from the island. He points it out to her in the
distance. The unusual occurrence of the move was that her baby brother
Jamie (Cillian Byrne) was washed out to sea in his crib and has never
been seen since.
Later her cousins Eamon (Richard Sheridan) and Tadhg (John Lynch)
tell her even more bizarre tales of generations back. One has to do
with a part seal and part human creature. Especially cute seals are
prominently featured in a quarter of the scenes in the show. Much
cuter than those in ANDRE for example.
The key to the success of THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH is John Sayles.
He was the writer (based on a book by Rosalie Fry), director and
editor. Sayles is extremely gifted. Of Sayles 9 movies, my favorites,
in addition to this one, are: MATEWAN, THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET,
and BABY, IT'S YOU--they are all worth looking for.
The movie was very carefully crafted, cast, and acted. All
performances were excellent and the movie had a relaxed, deliberate,
and measured pace. My favorite acting was that by Jeni Courtney.
Although most scenes had her just listening pensively, she was
nevertheless moving at it.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes