Northern Ireland news

Paisley/McGuinness peace film panned by critics

Colm Meaney as Martin McGuinness and Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley in The Journey. Picture by Steffan Hill

A NEW film based on a fictional encounter between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness has been slated by newspaper critics.

The Journey casts Timothy Spall as the late DUP leader while Stormont's deputy first minister is played by Colm Meaney.

Written by Bangor novelist Colin Bateman and directed by Belfast-born Nick Hamm, it premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday night.

There is as yet no scheduled release date for the film, which was part-funded by Northern Ireland Screen.

Timothy Spall as Ian Paisley and Colm Meany as Martin McGuinness in The Journey. Picture by Steffan Hill

According to both the DUP and Sinn Féin, there has been no invitation so far for Mr McGuinness or members of the Paisley family to view the drama, which is set during the 2006 St Andrews negotiations that led to a power-sharing deal between the two adversaries.

In the film an MI5 chief played by John Hurt hatches a plan that sees the future first minister and deputy first minister share a long car journey from the talks location to the airport.

During the trip there is a thaw in relations between the two politicians whose rapport in office later earned them the nickname 'the Chuckle Brothers'.

But it appears this dramatisation of a key period in the north's recent history has failed to impress some influential critics who attended the Venice premiere.

The Guardian said the two lead actors do a "decent job" but feels the the dialogue is less praiseworthy.

Its reviewer goes on to describe the film as "strained, dramatically inert and often frankly silly odd-couple bromance fantasy".

The Independent said the "very rich subject matter" is dealt with in a "disappointingly pedestrian way".

"The Journey makes perfectly amiable viewing," the review concludes. "As a drama about a seismic moment in recent British (sic) political history, it comes up short."

Arguably the worst review came from The Times, which described it as "horribly misguided".

"With prestigious slots at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, foreign selectors clearly thought that Nick Hamm’s film was high political drama, but British and Irish viewers may find it more like high farce," it said.

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