How carpooling brought peace to Northern Ireland

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Journey
RPL Film Theatre

Aug. 17–20

The Troubles in Northern Ireland are bottomless source of material for every film genre. From high-profile, prestige films (In the Name of the Father) to thrillers tense enough to shatter your nerves (’71) to black comedies (Good Vibrations), the notion of brother vs. brother is too fascinating to let lie (there’s also a racial factor I can’t fully deal with in 300 words).

The Journey— outside Michael Fassbender’s Hunger — is the most concentrated expression of the conflict one could come up with. The film is based on an actual event: in the midst of the 2006 Northern Ireland peace talks, the weather and the British government conspired to put Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuiness and his Democratic Party equivalent, Reverend Ian Paisley, in the same car for several hours.

It’s not clear what happened between the sworn enemies during the trip, but by the end of it Paisley agreed to power-sharing measures that brought the conflict to an end. The Journey imagines what transpired in that car ride between the jovial McGuiness (Colm Meaney) and the stern Paisley (Timothy Spall), both with a long list of grievances to air.

While the material is captivating in and of itself, Spall and Meaney are the ones who make The Journey tick. They fully inhabit their characters — men of conviction with plenty of regrets, better prepared to fight than to make peace. Their performance, plus that of the late, great John Hurt as the MI5 head who orchestrated the whole thing, is worth the price of admission.

Worth mentioning: British film critics didn’t love The Journey. There’s an element of whitewashing that didn’t sit well with them. For less involved audiences, The Journey should work just fine. ❧