White Irish Drinkers

by Jess

I watched the film White Irish Drinkers on TV several weeks ago, and I can’t get it out of my head. I find myself thinking about the characters and marveling at the way they were drawn and portrayed. And then I realized that I was feeling the way I do after I finish a really good novel, and that’s when I decided I had better mention White Irish Drinkers to you people.

The story follows two brothers, Brian and Danny Leary. Brian spends his time sneaking to the basement to paint, while Danny has found his identity in petty crime with the boyos. They attempt to realize their dreams for better lives, and to understand their complex relationships with each other, with their abusive father and with their long-suffering mother. The film is semi-autobiographical from the life of writer-director John Gray. In his Rolling Stone review of the film, Peter Travers says, “The close, cramped intimacy of this film is so real it stings. … For Gray, White Irish Drinkers is one from the bruised heart.”

Cahir O’Doherty calls White Irish Drinkers “a distinctive Irish American film” because of its portrayal of a “combustible world without a trace of sentimentality of cliche.” I wouldn’t have known precisely how to characterize a work of art as distinctively Irish American, but O’Doherty’s description rings true. This is a blue collar, bare knuckle culture that makes no apologies for what it is.

White Irish Drinkers won a number of best narrative feature awards and was a finalist for several more awards. It deserves them all. I know St. Patrick’s Day just passed, so I’m a bit behind on this one, but you should maybe pour yourself a frosty pint and sit down with this film, get to know the boys, prepare your heart to be moved.