Film Review The Irish Pub

Showing in Irish cinemas from October 4th, Alex Fegan’s documentary takes a wry look at that great national institution – The Irish Pub.

Many film-makers tackling this subject would likely focus on the history of such establishments and their place in the modern world, but Fegan isn’t interested in simply giving his viewers a lecture. Instead, he steps back and allows his leading men and women – the landlords, bar workers and patrons – to take centre stage and tell their, often hilarious, stories.

There’s no voice-over narration and little in the way of traditional structure. Most of the film sees a static camera set up directly in front of the bar, allowing the characters, on both sides of the bar, room to entertain. And entertain they do.

Taking a visit to most of these establishments serves as an alternative to a night out at a comedy club, as the landlords, most of them with a lifetime of experience in the trade, spin all manner of humorous yarns. You can sense some of these characters are twisting the truth somewhat, but that’s all part of the fun (to quote from that great western, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

There are anecdotes you sense have been told over and over, honed to perfection by expert storytellers. Some of them you may have heard in another variation, as these yarns tend to travel the length of the land, but they’re all thoroughly entertaining.

Fegan’s film has a real anarchic feel, reflecting the logistical nightmare of filming in such establishments. Rather than smoothly editing down the various anecdotes, Fegan presents his footage in a raw, unpolished way. Landlords have their stories constantly interrupted by impatient drinkers demanding another pint, passersby wishing to discuss the results of “the match” and even mischievous kids.

If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “going for a jar” came from, or just what the original purpose of an enclosed snug was, The Irish Pub has the answers, along with a whole lot of entertainment.

Reviewed by Eric Hillis