Happy Birthday, John Lynch

A fine actor, hailing from Northern Island (County Armagh), he made his debut – and it was a striking one – in Cal, based on the novel by Bernard MacLaverty, a novel of “the troubles”. He plays a young IRA member who becomes romantically involved with the widow of a man killed by his unit (Cal was “the driver”). Helen Mirren plays the widow, and this Irish film is dark, gloomy, moody, and excellent. My father loved the book and the movie, and it was through his recommendation I came to both, and it was how I was introduced to John Lynch.

Helen Mirren, John Lynch, “Cal”

He has gone on to have an excellent career. (His sister Susan is also a wonderful actress.) I loved him recently in the mini-series The Fall, with Gillian Anderson. A Belfast serial killer murder mystery. His character’s “arc” is drastic: we witness his steep descent into all the bad habits he thought he had given up, a tormented man throbbing with shame and passion and rage. I also loved him in Some Mother’s Son, directed by Helen Mirren, where he plays Bobby Sands, the de facto leader of the hunger strikes in Ireland in the early ’80s (my family was THERE at the time. I was young but I was intensely aware of what was happening and it was SO upsetting and I didn’t understand why someone didn’t stop these men from dying.) I saw the movie in the theatre, and now I own it on DVD, but for a long time it was hard to find and it doesn’t get much play. Lynch makes a perfect Bobby Sands. He even looks like him.

John Lynch, Jacqueline McKenzie, “Angel Baby”

The only thing I’ve written about involving him – and it’s a big one – was a piece for my Film Comment column (RIP) about 1995’s Angel Baby, directed by Michael Rymer and starring Lynch and Jacqueline McKenzie. My friend Rebecca and I went to go see it at the Angelica when it came out. We were riveted. We were devastated by the end. We could barely speak.

Both Lynch and McKenzie give performances as good as it gets. This film remains criminally hard to find and/or see. Many people haven’t even heard of it. It was a critical success, an arthouse hit. It was only the mid-90s. What has happened to collective cultural memory? It wasn’t THAT long ago.

Keep your eyes peeled for this one. Again: Here’s a link to the piece I wrote.

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10 Responses to Happy Birthday, John Lynch

  1. Pat says:

    I know him from the Derek Jarman movie “Edward II” — he caught my eye even with all the drama, gorgeous costumes worn by Tilda Swinton and Annie Lennox singing. I was thrilled to catch him a few years ago in the excellent miniseries “The Terror” that ran on AMC. He exemplified “brooding” in both.

    • sheila says:

      The Terror? Hmmm I don’t know that one, I will look it up. and agreed in re: Edward II!

      Yes, he was wonderful as a brooding young man and now he broods beautifully as a middle-aged man. Love him!

      • Pat says:

        The Terror is fantastic – I don’t want to give anything away in case you decide to watch it, but I can say it’s full of talented UK actors like Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ian Hart, John Lynch and Ciaran Hinds. Also, it has an actor I’d never seen before named Adam Nagaitis, who steals the series.

        • Pat says:

          Wanted to clarify – there are two seasons of The Terror, with totally different, non-connected storylines. One is about a ship and the other is about Japanese citizens in an internment camp. The one I’m reccing is the first one.

          • sheila says:

            wow – it sounds incredible. I love all of those actors – I don’t know Nagaitis – thanks so much for the rec!

    • Jessie says:

      Funnily enough Pat I was just talking with a friend about how much I respond to him in The Terror! He is one of those sad-eyed, wise and tender men who knows how to convey exactly what he needs to convey simply by watching and holding his face still. Stands out even with his comparatively few scenes even in amongst many other outstanding performers — I rewatched his scenes in the ninth episode many times.

      Sheila I have to second the recommendation of The Terror s1! There’s a lot of fascinating and excellent work in it.

      • sheila says:

        I have been so swept away by Ted Lasso (lol – but no seriously I have been) that it has sort of surprised me and put me off other things – like, i was just starting a re-watch of The Wire – into Season 2 – when the Ted Lasso Storm arrived (I’m always late to the party) – so I need to get back to The Wire – and also The Terror!

        These comments are all so intriguing!

        Jessie – did you see The Fall? Forgive me if we have discussed it already. It’s really the Gillian Anderson Show – and the Jamie Dornan Show – but John Lynch is key and he really has to deteriorate – RAPIDLY – over the course of the 6 episodes.

        He does it so so well. You want to shout at him “PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER” but once he slips off the wagon he shoots straight to the bottom.

        • Jessie says:

          Ted Lasso is inescapable at the moment! I haven’t watched it yet but I am very intrigued by all the buzz and also the Ted Lasso storm, haha!

          I have definitely watched s1 of The Fall but I couldn’t hook into it and to my shame I have no memory of Lynch! The serious serial killer drama is not always my bag. However I do love that kind of work, when someone has to go downhill fast — I will keep my eyes open for another chance to check it out! Thank you! I really have not seen him in much else at all except as the devastatingly handsome and romantic uncle in The Secret Garden, which I watched many times as a young’n, and which was directed by Agnieszka Holland, who went on to direct several key episodes of………The Wire! hahaha

  2. Shawn says:

    The second I saw who this post was about, my mind switched over to the enigmatically hypnotic The Fall. An unforgettable show. Hadn’t heard of the Terror before but it sounds right up my alley. Thank you!

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