In the Name of the Father (1993): Jim Sheridan’s Oscar Nominated Social Injustice Film, Starring Daniel Day-Lewis

In the Name of the Father In the Name of the Father

Though made in the tradition of social injustice films, Jim Sheridan’s fact- based drama “In the Name of the Father” goes beyond that genre by infusing it with an intense family saga.  The tale centers on a father and son who really get to know each other through their political activism and joint tragic suffering.

Again proving (as if he needed to) that he is the most energetic and exciting actor of his generation, Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”) brings rage and intensity to his role of a son. Gerry is a guy who never got to know his father well—until they share the same prison cell. 

In 1993, Day-Lewis gave two distinguished, albeit vastly different performances in high-profile films: As Newland Archer in Scorsese’s period drama “The Age of Innocence,” and as Gerry Conlon.

The tale begins on October 5, 1974, in a Guildford pub in the U.K., when an IRA bomb explodes, killing several people and injuring many others.  The public outcry for justice forces police officer Robert Dixon (Corin Redgrave, the less famous brother of Vanessa and Lynn) to arrest two “easy” suspects Gerry Conlon (Day-Lewis) and Paul Hill (John Lynch), squatters from Belfast.  Gerry’s father Giuseppe Conlon (Pete Postlethwaite) arrives in London to help his son obtain a lawyer, and he, too, is charged with participating in the IRA operation.

Disregarding basic facts and crucial evidence, the “Guildford Four” trial finds them all guilty. Gerry and Paul are sentenced to life in prison because the judge can’t find a reason to hang them, and Giuseppe is given fourteen years.

Predictably, the police force keeps incontrovertible evidence of the Conlons’ innocence under wraps until the ambitious and aggressive lawyer Gareth Peirce (Emma Thompson in a down-to-earth performance) tries to get the sentences of Gerry and Giuseppe overturned.

On one level, In the Name of the Father is an impassioned courtroom drama about the conviction and then release of Gerry Conlon and his three innocent friends. But what makes this picture more accessible and emotional is its depiction of the changing relationship between an estranged father and son; when Gerry and Giuseppe arrive in prison, they are literally strangers.

In reality, father and son had never shared together the same cell, but Sheridan deviates from the fact for the sake of emotional impact.  After Giuseppe’s death, Gerry continues to fight for justice.

Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon
Pete Postlethwaite as Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon
Emma Thompson as Gareth Peirce
John Lynch as Paul Hill
Corin Redgrave as Inspector Robert Dixon
Beatie Edney as Carole Richardson
John Benfield as Chief PO Barker
Paterson Joseph as Benbay
Marie Jones as Sarah Conlon
Gerard McSorley as Detective Pavis
Frank Harper as Ronnie Smalls
Mark Sheppard as Paddy Armstrong
Don Baker as Joe McAndrew
Tom Wilkinson as an Appeal Prosecutor

Model and now actress Saffron Burrows made her feature debut in the film, as Gerry Conlon’s free love-interest at a commune in London at the time of the bombings.

To prepare for the role of Gerry Conlon, Day-Lewis lost over 50 pounds in weight. To gain an insight into Conlon’s feelings, he also spent three days in jail cell. He was prevented from sleeping by a group of thugs, who would bang on the door every with tin cups through the night, then was interrogated by different teams of real Special Branch officers for nine hours. He also insisted that crew members throw cold water at him and verbally abuse him. He also kept his Belfast accent on and off set. Day-Lewis has stated that he went through all this as “How could I understand how an innocent man could sign that confession and destroy his own life.”


Daniel Day-Lewis

Pete Postlethwaite

Emma Thompson

John Lynch

Corin Redgrave


Producer-Director: Jim Sheridan
Screenplay: Terry George and Jim Sheridan based on Proved Innocent by Gerry Conlon
Camera: Peter Biziou
Music: Trevor Jones

Running Time: 132 Minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Oscar Nominations: 7

Picture, produced by Jim Sheridan

Director: Jim Sheridan

Screenplay (Adapted): Terry George and Jim Sheridan

Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Supporting Actor: Pete Postlethwaite

Supporting Actress: Emma Thompson

Film Editing: Gerry Hambling

Oscar Awards: None

The most nominated (12) picture in 1993, “Schindler’s List” competed for the top award with the action-adventure “The Fugitive” (7 nominations), Jim Sheridan’s socially-conscious drama “In the Name of the Father” (7), Jane Campion’s “The Piano” (8), and Merchant-Ivory production of “The Remains of the Day,” which, with 8 nods but no Oscars, became the biggest Oscar loser of the year.

Sweeping most of the Oscars, “Schindler’s List” won Best Picture, Director for Spielberg, Adapted Screenplay for Steven Zaillian, and Editing for Michael Kahn.

Tom Hanks won the Best Actor for Jonathan Demme’s AIDS drama, “Philadelphia,” Tommy Lee Jones the Supporting Actor Award for the adventure “The Fugitive,” and child actress Anna Paquin the Supporting Actress for “The Piano.”

With two nominations in the same year, the Best Actress was for “The Remains of the Day,” Emma Thompson joins a small group of actors who have achieved that, including Sigourney Weaver, who in 1988, was nominated for the lead in “Gorillas in the Mist,” and the supporting part in the comedy “Working Girl.” Like Emma Thompson, Weaver lost in both categories.