Four Days in July

Before Secrets and Lies earned him Oscar nominations, director Mike Leigh had already been developing his renowned working method in a series of films for the BBC. From months of character development with actors, he generated scripts and storylines featuring sympathetic working-class people and less flattering portraits of the British nouveau riche. In 1983 he shifted his underdog sympathies to Northern Ireland to make Four Days in July. Leigh spent months studying the conflicts of daily life in the Province to create a more focused narrative than usual, concentrating on two couples on either side of Belfast’s sectarian divide.
When Leigh deals a hand of cards to the respective couples, Protestants Billy (Charles Lawson) and Lorraine (Paula Hamilton) have the deck stacked against them. Billy is a macho defence regiment soldier, insensitive to his wife’s discomfort as child- birth looms. He is presented as a barbarian. Catholics Eugene (Des McAleer) and Colette (Brid Brennan) are portrayed more sympathetically: he’s unemployed and disabled from a stray British army bullet intended for joyriders; she’s warm hearted and easygoing. The two couples finally intersect at the hospital; a neutral venue where the working class from both sides might meet in a province otherwise segregated from infancy to the cemetery.
U.K., 1984.
96 mins.

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