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‘Into the West’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 17, 1993


Mike Newell
Gabriel Byrne;
Ellen Barkin;
Colm Meaney;
Ciaran Fitzgerald;
Rory Conroy;
David Kelly;
Johnny Murphy
Parental guidance suggested

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Drawn from both Celtic myth and American westerns, "Into the West" is the winning tale of a magical white horse with a sea-foam mane and an urgent mission in modern Dublin. The high-stepping mare, Tir na nOg, comes from the Land of Eternal Youth to rescue two gypsy tykes from a settled life in this romantic road picture.

Tir na nOg has only just arrived on Ireland's western shores, where the supernatural beast finds an old man waiting in a weathered barrel-topped wagon. Grandfather (David Kelly), a patriarch of a clan of indigenous nomads called "travelers," doesn't seem surprised when the horse journeys with him to visit his grandsons, Ossie and Tito.

Ruaidhri Conroy and Ciaran Fitzgerald, already accomplished veterans at 12 and 8, are completely charming as the pug-nosed ragamuffins who are befriended by the spirited filly. This symbol of freedom and beauty, alas, is taken captive by a wealthy entrepreneur, Hartnett (John Kavanagh), who forces her to leap dangerously high in the steeplechase. Worst of all, he has a crooked and prejudiced police captain on his side. Still, the plucky youngsters decide to rescue their equine acquaintance.

Giddy with the adventure and their new-found status as outlaws, the boys head west, pursued by the hardhearted Hartnett and his gun-crazy lackeys. Mistaking the local hills for the Rockies, these city kids are overjoyed imagining that they've ridden into genuine cowboy territory, a country as untamed as Tir na nOg, whom they now spur on with the cry of "Hi ho, Silver -- away!"

Their father (broody Gabriel Bryne), a withdrawn alcoholic who rejected the traveler ways after his wife's death, is obliged to ask old friends (Ellen Barkin, Colm Meaney) for help in tracking the boys. It seems clear that this is what Tir na nOg had in mind all along. This horse is no horse, of course.

Indeed, there is a Freudian twist to this horse's tale. It's the first film from the family division of Miramax, the folks who brought you "The Crying Game," so maybe we shouldn't be surprised.

The movie is alternately grim and lyrical, a not altogether cohesive work as directed by Mike Newell from Jim Sheridan's screenplay. Though long on ambiance and short on story, it may appeal to the spiritually inclined -- and to oater lovers.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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