Another historical reconstruction, Nora is concerned with the relationship between Nora Barnacle (played by Susan Lynch) and James Joyce (Ewan McGregor). Carefully negotiating the pitfalls of the period romance, particularly one with an Italian setting, Murphy’s third feature offers many more of the conventional pleasures of film viewing than her two earlier full-length productions. Yet it is still unmistakably the work of a feminist filmmaker, even if now her emphasis is on the vibrancy of Nora’s uninhibited sexuality. Murphy has explained that she intended this less as a feminist re-reading of Joyce than an exploration of how Nora’s presence affected his writing.
It is also a tempestuous love story, in which the two Joyce children play second fiddle to their parents’ obsessive sexual game-playing. Not the least of its achievements is a very different take on the image of the Irish mother than one normally might expect from Irish cinema.
This film is screening as part of the IFI’s Focus on Pat Murphy (July 21st & 22nd)