On Sunday, everyone gets to be Irish. Or at least they can watch a movie that gets their eyes smiling, no matter what their heritage or nationality. Aye, Sunday is St. Patrick's Day, and if you're looking for a tasty cinematic treat to go with your corned beef, cabbage and pint of not-so-green stout, consider these options, which range from children's fare to old classics to enthralling drama.
‘The Shore' (2011)
It may run less than half an hour, but “The Shore” boasts ample amounts of heart. The live-action short film even won acclaimed writer-director Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) his first Oscar last year. Well-known character actor Ciaran Hinds takes the starring role of an Irish-American father who takes his grown daughter (Kerry Condon) on a pilgrimage to his boyhood home near Belfast. But returning to his roots means finally facing the best friend (Conleth Hill) and the lover (Maggie Cronin) he left behind.
‘Into the West' (1992)
Celebrated Irish writer Jim Sheridan (“My Left Foot,” “In America” and more films that also would make excellent St. Patty's Day viewing) and respected English director Mike Newell (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) create a lovely family fantasy about two young brothers, Tayto (Ruaidhri Conroy) and Ossie (Ciaran Fitzgerald), whose visiting grandfather (the late David Kelly) brings along a beautiful white horse called Tir na nog. The children form a close, mystical bond with the creature, but when a crooked policeman (Brendan Gleeson) schemes to steal the fine steed, the boys end up fleeing on horseback.
‘The Secret of Kells' (2009)
This Oscar-nominated indie is more than just a hand-drawn animated adventure. It is high art. Every scene resembles a finely rendered painting in the distinctive pre-Renaissance style. In ninth-century Ireland, young Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) has grown up inside the walls surrounding the out-of-the-way abbey of Kells. Recruited by a famed illuminator named Aidan (Mick Lally) to help finish a sacred manuscript, the boy encounters Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mercurial shape-shifting sprite who protects the forest, while searching for berries to make ink.
‘The Quiet Man' (1952)
Legendary director John Ford won the last of his record four Oscars for this romantic comedy-drama, which also earned an Academy Award for best color cinematography. Devastated by a tragedy inside the ring, Irish-born and American-bred boxer Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is looking for peace when he moves from Pittsburgh to his birthplace, the tiny village of Innisfree. Instead, he falls in love with fiery redhead Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O'Hara), who has been relegated to spinsterhood because her bullying brother, Squire “Red” Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen) has staunchly refused to pay the traditional dowry.
“Once” deserved and won the best original song Oscar in 2008 for “Falling Slowly,” plus the new stage adaptation has earned Tony, Grammy and Drama Desk honors in the past year. The modern-day musical centers on the guy (The Frames' frontman Glen Hansard), a street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman, who meets the girl (Marketa Irglova), an Eastern European immigrant who has left her husband and works as a domestic to support her mother and young daughter. But she also is a classically trained pianist, who keeps in top form by practicing in a local music shop, allowing them to make beautiful music together.
‘Circle of Friends' (1995)
Set in 1950s Ireland, the romantic drama focuses on Benny (Minnie Driver), a somewhat plump and plain-looking young woman attending university in Dublin. She meets and quickly falls for Jack (Chris O'Donnell), a handsome star of the university's rugby team, and he surprisingly reciprocates her glowing affection.
‘Darby O'Gill and the Little People' (1959)
In this live-action Disney classic, storyteller Darby O'Gill (Albert Sharpe) captures King Brian (Jimmy O'Dea), the ruler of the leprechauns. Along with holding onto the wily leprechaun, Darby must get him to grant three wishes. The film stars a young and singing Sean Connery.
‘Far and Away' (1992)
Duncan-born director Ron Howard offers a sweeping, old-fashioned epic that appeals to both my Irish side (I'm Irish by marriage, in case the last name didn't give that away) and my Oklahoma heritage. A hotheaded young Irishman (Tom Cruise) leaves Eire with his landlord's rebellious daughter (Nicole Kidman) to pursue the promise of free land in the 1893 land run in present-day Oklahoma.
‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley' (2006)
Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this harrowing drama is set in 1920 during the early days of the Irish Republican Army, when British occupation caused many Irishmen to take up arms. Witnessing the oppression, Damien (Cillian Murphy) abandons his promising career as a doctor and becomes a force in an IRA division led by his brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney). The brothers fight side by side until a truce is signed. One faction of freedom fighters accepts the treaty with the British, but the other faction deems it unfair, prompting a civil war that pits Teddy against Damien.