Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto (2005) A Really Different Look at The Troubles

Taking into consideration that the definition of war is  “armed conflict between hostile parties, nations or countries” it is fair to include Breakfast on Pluto or any other movie dealing either with The Troubles, the IRA, Terrorism and similar things in a blog dedicated to war movies.

A while back I reviewed Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins, and an other outstanding movie on the Irish Civil war and war of Independence, The Wind that Shakes the Barley (also starring the stunning Cillian Murphy), and I did also review Bloody Sunday. Each of these movies tells about another era in this long-lasting conflict between Ireland and the UK.

Breakfast on Pluto is not only a highly original variation on the theme of The Troubles, Northern Ireland and the IRA but also one actors tour de force.

Patrick Kitten Braiden (Cillian Murphy) is not exactly like other boys. Left as a baby by his single mother on the doorsteps of a church, he is given to a foster family who can’t handle him. Already the very young Patrick is not interested in boy’s things or clothes. He likes to dress like a girl, uses make-up and lives in a fantasy world where he is either a famous film star or meets his mother who lives a glamorous life in London.

Small-minded Irish small town life of the 70s isn’t an ideal place for a young man with gender issues. Despite being an outsider, his charming likable nature provides him with friends, still it is obvious he doesn’t want to stay in Ireland. He wants to go to London and find his mother.

Some of the group of friends he hangs out with are politically active and join the IRA. Kitten isn’t exactly interested in politics, at least not conscioulsy, but he wants change. He wants to express himself freely and be accepted the way he is.

After a huge fight with his foster family he leaves the small town and travels around. He is picked up by some Irish Glitter Rock Band and tours with them in their bus through Northern Ireland. But wherever he goes, people seem to be involved with the IRA  and through his naivety he gets himself into a lot of trouble and finally departs to London.

He lives under the illusion that once in London he will magically bump into his mother.

Regarding the IRA, things haven’t changed in London, Kitten still seems to be always somehow at the heart of things. The big difference however is that this time, he doesn’t see the angry hostile presence of British soldiers but the mayhem created by a terrorist attack. Being the only Irish present in the club that is blown up, he is arrested.

The adventures of cross-dressing Kitten, his tribulations and struggles to find his mother are told in a charming, funny and quirky way. Breakfast on Pluto manages to tell the story of The Troubles seen from a completely different angle. Cillian Murphy as the unworldly, gentle Kitten is really astonishing. To a certain extent Kitten reminded me of Birdy. Like Birdy the movie Breakfast on Pluto is also a really touching tale of friendship and a call for tolerance.

Maybe not your average war movie, but well worth watching. I really enjoyed it. The music is also very well chosen.

I owe thanks to Novroz from Polychrome Interest who introduced me to this movie. If you are interested in Cillian Murphy’s other movies, go visit her website. She is a true “Cillianiac”.

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The Brylcreem Boys (1998): A WWII Comedy, Drama and Romance in Ireland

The least I can say about this movie is that it is total fun. I did certainly never expect to laugh during a POW movie but that actually happened repeatedly. Admittedly it is not the most refined humor, it’s rather of the burlesque, slapstick kind. But it is never overdone. The movie is just sprinkled with it here and there. The overall tone is often quite serious. Still it is one of the very rare movies you could probably watch with  children (although planes and people get shot down at the beginning and there is some fist fighting as well).

Ireland having lost many of its young men during the Civil War had decided to stay strictly neutral during WWII. This was not much appreciated by the allies. Unlike Switzerland Ireland insisted that every soldier encountered on Irish soil was to be taken prisoner. What was not universally known however was the fact that they put all the prisoners, French, British, American, Canadian and German into the same camp.

The Brylcreem Boys is not based on a true story but on true facts that have been carefully assembled and put together to tell a convincing story. Two fighter pilots, the Canadian Miles Keogh  (Bill Campbell) and the German Rudolph von Stegenbeck (Angus Macfadyen),  shoot each other down over Ireland and are both taken prisoners and brought to the same camp. While on leave they  fall in love with the same girl, the strong-willed Mattie (Jean Butler),  which adds a bit of romance to the whole story. Their rivalry and mutual dislike is very intense in the beginning but over the course of the movie and during many incidents they realize that they are not that different despite being on different sides.

Much of the funny elements of the movie stem from contrasting the Germans and their rigid discipline and total lack of sense of humour with the  more easy-going other prisoners. (Unfortunately there aren’t any German actors in the movie and some of the accents that the cast adopted are a bit laughable.)

Even though they are far away from the war itself, one of the prisoners sort of brings it back with him when he returns from London from his futile attempt at escaping the camp.  His account from his stay in the British capital makes the tragedy of the constant bombing during the Blitz  utterly palpable.

I am a big fan of the Irish actor Gabriel Byrne whose character is the commanding officer of the camp. He also co-produced this movie. Seeing how much fun he exudes playing this role one can easily assume that this was a movie that was very close to his heart.

I am very glad the directors felt compelled to tell this story of this quite exotic camp. It provides an interesting insight into Irish history for which I am glad.

Since this is really a feel good movie but far from being stupid entertainment you might really  enjoy watching it.