Waking Ned Devine (1999)

Screenplay by Kirk Jones
Directed by Kirk Jones

Review by Tim

I'm not sure what first got me hooked on this geriatric, backwoods story. The first time I saw it, I left the theatre chuckling, but I didn't really consider it notably memorable. For months afterward, however, I'd recall one scene or another from the film, and start chuckling all over again. By the time it came out in VHS, I really didn't have to think twice about acquiring it. Every couple of months I'll pull it out of my library and watch it again, and laugh at all the same places. My wife thinks I'm nuts.

Our unlikely heroes are a pair of charming sexagenarians, the rascally Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen), and his elfin sidekick Michael O'Sullivan (David Kelly), denizens of the tiny Irish village of Tullymore (population 52). When Jackie becomes aware that someone in the village has won a big lottery prize, he and Michael, and Jackie's wife Annie (Fionnula Flanagan), make a covert effort to discover and ingratiate themselves with the winner. After following several false trails (and investing quite a few pounds), Jackie realizes that the one possibility they haven't investigated is an aging fisherman named Ned Devine. He visits Ned's seaside cottage, and discovers him seated in front of his television, a smile on his face, and the winning lottery ticket clutched in his dead fingers. The shock of winning had been too great for Ned's aging heart.

Ned has no living family, and it immediately occurs to Jackie that he might claim the lottery prize for himself. There's just one problem - Ned had written his name on the back of the ticket, to ensure that no one else could claim any prize he might win. This doesn't stop Jackie, though; he soon involves the entire village in a scheme to pass Michael O'Sullivan off as Ned Devine, and divide the prize (almost 7 million pounds) 52 ways!

The film is remarkable in all ways - a wonderfully written, intelligent script, combined with fine acting, good music, and gorgeous scenery (the film is shot entirely on the Isle of Man). And, if my own experience is any indication, the story will grow on you.

August, 2001