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Titanic Town

It's mom against the military as a gutsy, had-it-up-to-here housewife battles the British government and the IRA in this warmly told true tale.


Julie Walters shines as Bernie McPhelimy, a working-class mother of four who is sick to death of living on the front lines. In curlers and a housecoat, she chews out a gunman shooting from her welcome mat as if he were a naughty child. But it isn't until her best friend is shot dead while looking after one of Bernie's kids that she turns from Valium to activism. Daring to criticize the IRA as well as the British army, Bernie becomes the town pariah, though her gumption turns her into an unlikely celebrity. Ostracized and bullied by their friends, her kids -- especially adolescent Ann, who just wants to keep her new boyfriend -- resent her and suspect all this fame is going to her head.


In her best film role since "Educating Rita," Julie Walters shows she still has a surplus of piss and vinegar. Her Bernie also displays a sardonic (if exhausted) wit and an all-too-human ego as her fame spreads. While Ciaran Hinds is effective as the ulcer-addled apprehensive husband and Nuala O'Neill gives an appropriately mopey, angst-ridden performance as Ann, vibrant supporting performances by the townspeople really bring soul and humor to this film.


Quite different from his last film, the glossy, fluffy "Notting Hill," Rodger Michell's "Titanic Town" is a small indie with many fine miniature moments, such as Bernie's preoccupation with the dust bunnies under the bed as British soldiers forcibly search her home. With a spate of IRA films preceding it, Michell's is the only one to really show "The Troubles" through a mother's eyes.

Bottom Line

Likable but slight, the film has both comedy and poignancy, but not enough of either. Luckily it has Julie Walters.


Starring Julie Walters, Ciaran Hinds, Ciaran McMenamin, Nuala O'Neill and Lorcan Cranitch.

Directed by Roger Michell. Produced by George Faber and Charles Pattinson. Screenplay by Anne Devlin. Released by The Shooting Gallery.