review for This is My Father on AllMovie

This is My Father (1998)
by Derek Armstrong review

There are Quinns aplenty in this story of an Irish-American high school teacher (James Caan) in search of his old-country heritage -- Paul the writer/director, Aidan the star, and Declan the cinematographer. But the extended story they tell in flashback, undoubtedly heartfelt, doesn't interest enough to make for a compelling film. Perhaps they're too close to the material (or to each other, as brothers) to identify its shortcomings, but the story is a humdrum look at the class prejudices of small village Ireland in the early 20th century, marked by the usual doses of religious fear mongering and native whimsy. The frame story is a little less clichéd, featuring sweet moments in which Kieran Johnson's nephew (Jacob Tierney) gets past some of his teenage rebelliousness in the arms of a present-day lass. But Kieran's own soul-searching mission is surprisingly lackluster, as he happens across an elderly soothsayer who witnessed the events (and maintains a perfect memory of them, 50 years later) in the very bed and breakfast he selects at random. Instead of discovering information in fits and starts while immersing himself in the local scene, he gets the whole story delivered on a platter, albeit teased out interminably over the length of his visit. Pointless cameos by stars with top billing (John Cusack and Stephen Rea) only provide further distractions. Aidan Quinn gives an accomplished performance, but his brothers can't fulfill their end of the bargain, making for a project that will appeal mostly to lovers of the Blarney Stone.