Snapper, The (United Kingdom, 1993)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Why would a successful director like Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liasons, The Grifters, Hero) go from the relative security of Hollywood to the near-obscurity of Ireland to make a little film like The Snapper? Frears himself supplied the answer by saying that as uneasy as he felt about the decision, the opportunity to film Roddy Doyle's wonderful script was more than enough to overcome any misgivings. The result speaks for itself.

In the Curley household, unwed motherhood isn't the disaster it might be elsewhere. When twenty-year old Sharon (Tina Kellegher) informs her father, Desi (Colm Meaney), and mother, Kay (Ruth McCabe), that she's "up the pole", they aren't thrilled, but there's no display of histrionics. After asking who the father is (and not being told), Desi invites his daughter out to the local pub for a drink. Sharon's friends are as interested as her family in the father's identity, but she resolutely keeps mum about the truth until an event in the neighborhood brings it into the open.

The Snapper is a very funny production, and it gets funnier as the movie progresses. Some of the humor has a distinctly Irish flavor, and it takes a while to get used to the ebb and flow of certain jokes. The biggest obstacle to laughter in The Snapper may be getting past the heavy accents. Wisely, however, Miramax has decided against subtitles, which would have ruined the subtlety of many of the wittier moments.

Those who think this is just another "unmarried girl gets pregnant" motion picture are in for a surprise. Rarely has a movie honestly, yet humorously, shown how the pressures of pregnancy can tear at the fabric of a close-knit, working-class family. The relationship between Sharon and her dad is more intimate than that of most daughter/father pairings, and the things these two have to admit to one another are often heartrendingly difficult to say.

In fact, the dramatic elements of The Snapper hold the humor in check. It's hard to let loose with unrestrained laughter when you recognize the pain underlying a scene. There are several sequences that move from laughter to tears back to laughter, bringing the audience along on the roller coaster ride. This structure doesn't always work, and that occasionally leads to an unsettled feeling.

The character that undergoes the most development is Desi, who starts the film as the supportive father, but learns through experience that loving his daughter requires more than taking her to the pub for a pint. This role could easily have turned into a type, but Colm Meaney's intelligent portrayal makes Desi more like a real person than a writer's creation.

Tina Kellegher is solid as Sharon. The actress has an expressive face that director Frears knows how to exploit. Many times Sharon doesn't have to speak for us to know exactly what she's feeling. Also impressive is Fionnuala Murphy as Sharon's best friend Jackie.

It's refreshing to see an old subject dealt with in the open and original manner that The Snapper handles pregnancy. The marriage of humor and drama is admittedly imperfect, but it works well enough to occasionally spawn laughter and touch the heart, and there's a crucial scene between Colm Meaney and Tina Kellegher that is beautifully written, acted, and directed. Even those who have trouble understanding the accents will find that once the language barrier is broken and the slang deciphered, The Snapper has a surprising amount of depth.

Snapper, The (United Kingdom, 1993)

Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Colm Meaney, Tina Kellegher, Ruth McCabe, Fionnuala Murphy
Screenplay: Roddy Doyle
U.S. Distributor: Miramax Films
Run Time: 1:34
U.S. Release Date: 1993-11-24
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1