In the Name of the Father is Jim Sheridan’s harrowing film that tells the true story of Gerry Conlon, a Northern Irishman in London who was falsely accused of taking part in a terrorist attack by the Irish Republican Army, sent to prison and abused while in custody. On October 5, 1974, two bombs detonated at two different pubs in Guildford, England.
Gerry Conlon did commit a crime on October 5, but it was robbery of a prostitute and had nothing to do with the bombing. Nevertheless, circumstances conspire to lead British police to overzealously implicate Conlon, plant evidence of terrorist connections, interrogated and tortured until coerced into signing a false confession. The bulk of In the Name of the Father deals with Gerry’s time in prison as part of the “Guildford Four” and his relationship with his father who was also sentenced to prison and the court battle waged on his behalf to get his conviction overturned.
As might be expected, Sheridan took some liberties with the facts for the sake of increasing the dramatic impact, such as showing scenes of Gerry and his father sharing the same cell. That other inaccuracies were excitedly pointed out by some British critics with Sheridan’s response being that any lies that may exist on screen are nothing compare to the lies the British government perpetrated against Conlon and the rest of the Guildford Four. The movie concludes with their conviction being overturned, but also with the fact that none of the policemen involved in conspiring to get false confessions were ever punished.
In the Name of the Father received seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Jim Sheridan. Daniel Day-Lewis was nominated for Best Actor, with his performance contributing to legend of going to extremes to prepare for roles. For this film, the actor lost 50 pounds, spent three days and night in a jail cell without sleep, and underwent a nine-hour long police interrogation in order to more fully understand the physical and psychological toll placed upon Conlon in real life.