The Field
directed by Jim Sheridan
(Granada, 1990)

The Field, based on a play by John B. Keane, is set in 1930s Ireland. A young widow (Frances Tomelty) wants to sell her land and return to her own home and people. Bull McCabe (Richard Harris), who has been renting the land for some time, believes he has an inherent claim to three acres because he transformed it from a barren rock pile to a fertile field. He swears he will do anything to keep anyone else from possessing it. But the widow hates him because he has been terrorizing her (or so she believes) ever since her husband died. She has lived in constant fear, especially at night. When she decides to have the land sold at auction, the intimidation begins.

The situation escalates when an Irish-American businessman (Tom Berenger) arrives to bid on the land. He wants to pour concrete across the level field, set up a hydroelectric plant in the river and mine limestone from the surrounding hills. He has enough money to outbid Bull on the land. He must be dealt with!

This is one movie that seems to have an endless number of subplots. There is the mystery surrounding the Bull's son Tadgh (Sean Bean). From the very beginning, you sense that something is wrong with him. As the movie progresses, small tidbits of information are revealed to keep you questioning this character. He always manages to pass the guilt for what he does onto someone else and you will likely find your initial opinions being changed toward the middle of the movie.

This evil son is apparently in love with Katie (Jenny Conroy), a tinker's daughter, who is shunned by the entire community. As she struggles to become accepted, she tries to win Tadgh's attentions and draw him out of his shell. You really must see the dance scene, especially when the son throws his dance partner forcefully to the floor.

Meanwhile, Bull has his own love problems. He has not spoken to his wife or slept with her in more than 16 years. Will they get back together? Why does he believe she was the wrong woman for him to marry?

In Leonard Martin's 2003 Movie & Video Guide, the listing for this movie only gives it two stars and states that it "becomes aloof and largely unmoving." I totally disagree and wonder if he watched the same movie I did. I really enjoyed it and felt it held a high level of suspense until the end. The ending is a totally unexpected twist that will catch you completely off guard.

Animal lovers should watch this movie for the scenes with the Gypsy Vanner horses and caravan wagons, Old World sheep and cattle breeds, and the general Irish farming practices. If you love the Irish culture or landscape, this is a must-see movie. I highly recommend it.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 18 January 2003

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