The Irishman

The Irishman ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I am immediately aware that I want/need to rewatch this, and I may write more then. There is just so much going on here that it feels impossible to chart its borders (even halfway) with writing. But my first impressions:

Perhaps the most haunting thing in The Irishman are Peggy's glances toward her father. She reminds him of what he is choosing to ignore, and you can see how uncomfortable it makes him. Frank never cracks. He never relents or confesses. He murders and steals and plots, but Peggy's knowing eyes still seem to lay his soul bare. And though Frank never lets his inescapable conscience affect anything of consequence, as he gets older something happens. We see these long pauses, these moments of silent self-reflection before they are washed away with the muscle memory of impassivity. And in these moments, I recognized the look on his face -- of momentary stoic conviction -- from the looks his own daughter used to give him. Back when she could still stomach his presence. It's a heartbreaking mirroring of father and daughter, both holding a placid look that betrays hints of a great depth of emotion, each for the same reason but on different sides of that same truth.

The Irishman is a harrowing display of life on autopilot, of a life lived with an undisturbed focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Destination be damned. You steal some meat, then you beat a grocer, then you blow up a business, then you kill a guy, then several. Red flags and warning signs are shrugged off because it's maybe just too inconvenient to pay attention to them. You kill a father in front of his children because "they need to know". Then one day you're watching yourself casually murder your best friend, merely because that's the one lane road you've been on this whole time. Even some type of expressed remorse would require the agency that you've long been sacrificing. And by the end of your life... You try to look back and take account. You try offering paper-thin, stumbling justifications to your children for your behavior as a father, and you try taking up religion as a salve, only able to borrow another's words in prayer... But you're still going to haggle the price of your own casket, solely because it's the type of thing you're used to doing. It's momentum.

This film has immense weight. But I'm amazed that it also has lightness, leisure, warmth, and tenderness too. Not to mention all the history and politics. Maybe I'll write more on those later...

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