• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #77: Joseph Donnelly


He has no wish to fight us.

I make no argument that Far and Away is a great movie. It is a fun movie, a sumptuously-shot fairy tale/period piece, with a masterful score courtesy of John Williams and the Chieftains so stirring that it's still used in trailers today. It's not a complex story, with an entertaining yet surface treatment of class strife in Ireland, standard immigrant mythology in Boston, and expansive embrace of the American frontier. It attempts at sweeping but only manages playful, and there's no shame in that.

This is one of the few (but not only) times I've enjoyed Nicole Kidman on screen. More importantly, this is 1992, when Tom Cruise could do no wrong, reliably cranking out hits (A Few Good Men, The Firm) as the charismatic and talented face of Hollywood. At an impressionable 17, I loved his frustrated, ambitious Irishman Joe Donnelly, more action than thought, all kinetic frenzy and violent movement. Sure, he's a stereotype, the whole film is populated with them, and true Irishmen likely cringe at the accents and ethnic cosplay going on. But the basic arc is satisfying, if simple: young man comes from nothing, fights everybody, gets his land and the girl. Not everything has to be high literature.

In a "obligatory nod to Ireland" I nearly put the X-Men's Banshee here. But if you thought the Irish misappropriation of Far and Away was bad...

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