Pubs and publicans talk about the enduring charm of the local.
The Irish Pub is a documentary by very jolly filmmaker Alex Fegan, who spent a year touring around dozens of traditional pubs throughout the island of Ireland, having a good old chat.
The result is a series of conversations about a variety of subjects, from the historical significance of the private snugs to some barside philosophy. Jokes and stories are told and songs are sung and what slowly builds up is a subtle and engaging portrait of an institution in decline, but one that isn’t going anywhere without a fight.
These publicans are steadfast in their support of keeping things the way they used to be, with original flagstone flooring (despite the risk of intoxicated spills), roaring fires and the familiar site of utterly random collections of memorabilia and junk decorating the walls and ceiling.
It’s a charming film in a lot of ways, from the Fegan’s basically functional camera set ups and lighting to the frequent interjections by customers or over enthusiastic kids who are clearly just loving the fact that a film is being made in their pub.
But the real appeal likes in the characters, the publicans with their words of wisdom and the tales told with an ear for a yarn and a punchline. The humour is warm and plentiful, making the very act of viewing the film a more social experience than most. These are real people, their comments off the cuff and often hilarious.
At its best, The Irish Pub really brings to life these disparate locations, making you feel almost like you were visiting them. And in that way, it reinforces the message of the film, that these public houses are an institution and one that’s worth preserving, if only to ensure that there’s a ready supply of craic for future generations.
If you’re prone to pick nits (which I am) the only real problem with the film is that it’s a bit basic. Fegan doesn’t really have a strong overriding theme or thesis to link the disparate topics and subjects together and after awhile it devolves into ‘chats with funny barmen.’ But the barmen are indeed funny and Fegan packs it all in at refreshingly brisk 76 minutes.
It may all be a little slight but The Irish Pub is much more entertaining than it has any right to be thanks to an amazing cast of real-life characters.
Check out the official site for details on where to see the film and, more importantly, a map of some of those real-life pubs!