review for Four Days in July on AllMovie

Four Days in July (1984)
by Josh Ralske review

Mike Leigh's underseen Four Days in July is a wonderfully engaging and bitterly funny take on "the troubles" of Northern Ireland. Leigh eschews proselytizing in favor of the type of richly drawn character study that has become his hallmark as a filmmaker. Still, his sympathies are pretty clear. Collette (Brid Brennan) and Eugene (Desmond McAleer), the Catholic couple in the film, are, for all their flaws, two of the most likeable characters Leigh has ever conceived. Lorraine (Paula Hamilton), the pregnant Protestant woman, seems sweet enough, but she doesn't get enough screen time, or really have enough to say to engage the audience. Her husband Billy (Charles Lawson) is as complex and interesting as any character in Leigh's oeuvre, and Lawson gives a strong performance, but he's a gruff, silent type, who has fully bought into traditional macho ideals. Eugene is tough and he's been through a lot, but he still manages to be a jovial fellow. It's telling that when Eugene and Billy (and later Collette and Lorraine) meet, the Catholic is far more outgoing and friendly. There's a wonderful scene in the second half of the film in which Eugene and Collette sit in their kitchen having a drink with local handymen Brendan (Shane Connaughton) and Dixie (Stephen Rea), and have a long, drawn out conversation, eventually touching on the events going on in the street outside. Everything about this scene is pitch perfect, from Dixie's overconfidence in his intellect to Eugene's combination of embarrassment and pride as he talks about his war wounds. This is the kind of milieu that Leigh captures as well as any filmmaker in history. The Irish accents may be heavy slogging for some viewers, but it's worth hearing what these characters have to say.