Monday, 19 July 2010

Best Actor 1993: Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father

Daniel Day-Lewis received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Gerry Conlon an Irish man wrongly accused of  being involved with an IRA bombing in In the Name of the Father.

In the Name of the Father is a pretty good film about a group of innocent Irish people being mistreated by the English police. I liked it because it did not focus only on the proving their innocence but also on the relationship between Gerry Conlon and his father (Pete Postlethwaite).

Gerry Conlon is Day-Lewis's second nomination character and his second Irish one and is again directed by Jim Sheridan but Conlon is a very different man than Christy Brown. Gerry Conlon begins in the film as a young man who basically has no direction in his life and is at odds with his proper father. Day-Lewis excels in the role and shows Conlon youth and foolishness as well as possible. Although many years older than the actual person, Day-Lewis is always believable as Conlon, he never seems to be too old and is always perfectly convincing in showing Conlon's youthful attitudes. His best scenes here though again are with Postlethwaite. Both actors shows a history between a father and son in there farewell scene when Gerry goes to England without either actor ever saying what it is completely. Both actors play off of each other perfectly, to create a true and honest relationship between the father and son.

After being arrested for an Ira bombing of an English pub Conlon undergoes an extreme illegal interrogation by the the English police. Conlon is constantly pestered into confessing through mental and physical torture. Day-Lewis is perfect here showing Conlon's pain in these scenes. He shows how his resistance to signing the confession is slowly broken down due to the constant torture. The scene itself is not quite perfect because it does not seem to last as long as it should and the passing of time is not perfectly established, but Day-Lewis is perfect in these scene. He completely shows Conlon's frustration and exhaustion, but still refusal to sign the confession. That is until one of the police officers tells Conlon he is going to kill his father. Day-Lewis handles his frightened break down without fault. A completely raw emotional scene that Day-Lewis makes as realistic and powerful as possible.

Afterward Conlon and his father are wrongly convicted and share a cell together. As I said in Postlethwaite's review, these scenes are the most powerful and to me the most important in the film. In these scenes the father and sons relationship slowly changes and Conlon himself changes from an aimless young man and slowly grows and learns well in prison. First Day-Lewis handles Conlon change meticulously, another performance that correctly shows the change over a period of time in a perfectly understated way. I particularly how Conlon is challenged to face with his father's views and the views of the actual Ira bomber who also ends up in the prison. He at first actively becomes involved with the Ira member but soon sees fault in his view and begins to lean toward his father's view. Day-Lewis is brilliant in encompassing the morality of the film, and again his change to his father's side is perfect understated brilliance.

The greatest scenes though are of Postlethwaite and Day-Lewis together. Their relationship develops into both of them slowly coming together and each having even greater care for each other. Neither is false or wrong in a single scene together. They know each other creating a portrait of a father and son that I feel is one of the strongest and most powerful seen in a film.  From their first cell scene together where they are at odds because Gerry always feels his father always sees something wrong with him. Gerry basically becomes crazed briefly because he cannot take it and Day-Lewis is emotional cries are well balanced by Postlethwaite's knowing reaction. Later they become closer in again in a perfectly attuned method and it leads to one final scene together. Both Day-Lewis and Postlethewaite show that the Conlon really have a bond as father and son, a bond that makes the next scene in the film all the more heartbreaking. The film works because of their relationship therefore it truly works because of Day-Lewis's and Postlethwaite's performance which never falter.

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