Happy one-year anniversary to a film that actually saved me last year: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.
Not only is The Irishman one of Martin Scorsese‘s best (they’re all good at this point) but his most introspective and personal piece in his filmography. For the most part, The Irishman is only appreciated by those who have followed his career and respect Scorsese as a leading artist in this industry.
He has so much love for cinema and to have him make a film, symbolizing the culmination of his life’s work is incredibly satisfying. That’s what The Irishman is really about.
By the end of the film, when Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is reflecting on his life, we notice Scorsese has looked back on his own filmography and pulled certain moments from his other films. And he did in more than 3.5 hours. It feels like the ultimate mob film because he’s the one behind the camera, appreciating and respecting the films that came before this. It seemed effortless because of how meticulous he is.
What Loyalty Means
The Irishman is a comfort film because of what it symbolizes–years of loyalty, working, and collaborating. There are also years of religious undertones only to finally have Scorsese reflect on everything, including death. Last year, I had struggled with multiple friendships. We’re talking about almost 20 years’ worth of history. So, to witness the rise and fall of Sheeran’s friendship with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) was something for me to process.
The quote “It’s what it is.” stayed with me like few things have in the past. The line deliveries from Pacino, Pesci and De Niro were all different and effective.
The line is a warning, a threat in the context of the film but it also means that the perils of life are out of anyone’s control. I think that’s why it resonated with me. When someone makes up their mind, it’s done… it’s what it is. It was the wake-up call I didn’t know I needed. Yes, it has been said many times before, but De Niro’s delivery just hit me differently.
You can look at a 20-year friendship and notice that something isn’t right. If something breaks between that friendship, that connection will never be the same because it has been altered forever.
Last year, two long-term friendships of mine changed and I had no control of the situation. The only thing I could do was take care of myself, move on, and keep saying, “It’s what it is.” Did it hurt losing connections that were so dear to my heart after all these years?
Of course it did, but that’s why the mob genre and the theme of loyalty among brothers is so comforting to me.
The Process of Dying
The other reason why The Irishman is so deeply personal for me is because of the last half hour of this film. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing was incredible. The first half of the film had great pacing. Everything was happening fluidly and in the same energy as any mob film.
Then the last half, she slowed it down because everyone had to process this ending. The focus shifted from what Sheeran and Hoffa were doing to what Sheeran had done in his life.
The last half, we see Sheeran as an elderly man, with a cane, trying to live for himself after his wife died. By slowing the film down, we are watching Sheeran slowdown in the same way and it was powerful.
It dragged but in an effective way because we were watching him wait for his inevitable death. When he spoke to the priest (in true Scorsese fashion), he ambiguously talked about his past because even though the people he worked for were dead, he remained loyal but sought forgiveness for his transgressions.
It was extremely hard to watch De Niro as a sick, elderly man, waiting in his chair with the door slightly open. That final shot haunts me to this day because of my own experience with my grandparents. It broke me. Everything about that last half hour was emotional. I have so much empathy towards the elderly, so to see these icons that I grew up watching turn old and grey, it was heartbreaking.
Scorsese came to terms with getting old and showed his audience what the process is like.
The whole film was emotional the first time I watched it. It felt like a final film that we didn’t ask for, yet so desperately needed. This is the last time that we are ever going to see these heavyweights share a screen and I cried straight through because of it. That’s why the ending punched me in the gut. That’s why this film is so special to me.
So, if you are a fan of this 3.5-hour masterpiece, grab a bottle of red wine, some crusty Italian bread and unwind with the most iconic cast of all time. Seriously, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, you all have time to sit through this for 3.5 hours without breaking it down into four episodic parts to get through it.