Irish and Jewish mothers share a stereotype with one exception: they don’t temper their sense of guilt. With all the love in the world, an Irish mother can simultaneously worship the ground her son walks on and act with a deeper sadism than the bastard offspring of Jeffrey Dahlmer and John Wayne Gacy.
Growing up, the brother and me were pretty spoiled – it was more Enid Blyton (without the casual racism) than Angela’s Ashes , but Mam wielded the wooden spoon of guilt like Zorro felling Spaniards. When I went through a period of fibbing she tole me that my tongue would turn black and fall out if I lied. How did she know? That damned avian turncoat, the little bird, told on me. Every time. It must have been a stool pigeon.
The best ever was telling me that raising a hand to her would result in the offending member rising from the ground once buried, forming a gruesome, peeling tribute to the finale of Carrie. People will come from miles around, she said, to visit the slowly rotting hand and say “There lies a terrible child who was mean to his mother.”
Of course, we laugh about it now, but I still hate that bird.
Dublin is a city that works well in movies. I can buy it as a place where buskers fulfill their dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom. It’s fine as the backdrop for a musical comedy about a bunch of unemployed soul singers being black and proud. In Steven Sodabread’s new movie Haywire, however, it’s painfully obvious that you need a New York or a London to make a spy thriller.
It wasn’t familiarity with my birthplace that make it hard to suspend disbelief, even though Gina Carano‘s teaky depiction of rogue agent Mallory appeared to run around Dublin with nothing but contempt for natural laws of geography. In one chase sequence she appeared to have crossed the Liffey three times without using a bridge, which can only mean that Aperture Science has joined Amazon, Facebook and Twitter in basing their European offices there.
It wasn’t even the fact that a room at the Shelbourne Hotel was trashed and no-one bothered to complain until the following morning. “Calm down,” I muttered, “it’s still more realistic than Leap Year.”
No, what made me realise that this was pure fantasy was the fact that Grafton Street still had shops open and people spending money. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s the pure naivety of believing Ireland still has an economy.
What about the rest of the movie? Remember the sort of show that would be on Saturday evenings on ITV in the eighties? That’s exactly it – Haywire felt like a pilot for one of those bloodless, gung-ho, let’s-shoot-a-lot-of-weapons-and-have-a-bit-of-fighting-before-bathtime and nothing more nuanced than a two-part episode of the A-Team.
I’m not saying the parts of the story wedged between the She-ra-esque set pieces were dull but, at one point, an actual tumbleweed rolled past in the mid-distance as Michael Douglas tried to exposit his way out of a paper-thin plot. Still, at ninety minutes, it’s not going to be too much of your life wasted.
Move over John F., Ireland has a new favourite son.
It’s taken an American president to make me think Ireland’s worth saving.
Is féidir linn.