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The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

"Before viewing" talks introduce the film without spoilers. Watch it, then click on the "After viewing" talk for more. More»» by Randy Heffner

Why the film is worth your time

The legends, mystery, and characters in The Secret of Roan Inish beautifully embody our innate longing for home and how we deal with that longing. The Irish waterscape and the life within it becomes a character, being both lovely and treacherous, passive and with its own active agenda. John Sayles’ filmcraft takes us deeply into the life, the lives, and the land, and his pacing of the film gives us room to feel the tensions, the fears, the longing, the peace, and the space between them. Most all of the performances are excellent — though there is a little stiltedness, it’s only a very minor detriment to the film’s impact. Running time: 103 min.

Fiona’s mother dies. The extended family leaves Roan Inish (Island of the Seals) and the fishing life. Fiona, one of her brothers, and her father move to a new life amidst factories and the city. Her father, listening to the voices around him saying this is no place to raise a little girl, sends Fiona to live with her grandparents, who live across the water in sight of Roan Inish. There she finds mystery, legend, superstition, resignation, and hope.

A little boy, about 4 years old, is on screen fully naked from all angles, though not close-up.

  • Director: John Sayles
  • Screenplay: John Sayles, based on a book by Rosalie K. Fry
  • Leads: Jeni Courtney, Mick Lally, Eileen Colgan, Richard Sheridan
  • Cinematography: Haskell Wexler
  • Music: Mason Daring

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"After viewing" talks assume that you have seen the film. They will contain spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

How the film enriched and changed me

After seeing The Secret of Roan Inish, I sat back and wondered how often I, like Tess (the grandmother), repress my longing for home. I wondered how often I, like Fiona’s father, opt for

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Screenshots and dialog copyright © 1994 by the filmmakers.

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