‘I, Dolours’ recounts the life of former IRA member Dolours Price. Based on a series of interviews that took place in 2010 between Price and journalist Ed Moloney, ‘I Dolours’ details Price’s childhood, influences that led to her become one of the IRA’s first female leaders (in a secret unit she says was run by Gerry Adams, though Adams denies it), and her participation in the Old Bailey car bomb attack of 1973. Her time in prison is recalled, and we pay witness to the trauma and guilt she carried for what she did up to her death in 2013.
Numerous films in both documentary and narrative feature form have been made about Northern Ireland and The Troubles era at this point. Maurice Sweeney (who has proven himself an efficacious documentary filmmaker, having produced ‘Saving the Titanic’, ‘Trial of the Century’ and ‘Barbarians Rising’ among others, over the years) attempts to break from convention by taking the personal story of Price herself as word, constructing his film using documentary footage intercut with audio and visual from the Dolours interview as well as recreations of what she is saying.
The resulting film is somewhat mixed.
The movie is most effective in the first act when Dolours talks of her childhood, including the significance of her father and how a family history of relatives going to prison made the prospect seem not that bad. One particularly harrowing story she tells is of caring for her aunt, who was left horribly mutilated after a bomb explosion went wrong. This story is recreated in graphic detail, as is Dolours’ hunger strike and being forced fed later on. While such scenes are disturbing, one knows the reality is likely worse.
Lorna Larkin (‘North Circular Road’) is excellent as Dolores Price recreated, personifying the real life figure’s steely determination to carry out the will of the IRA, her muted acceptance of the murder and dumping into unmarked graves of people who the IRA had ‘disappeared’, and her subdued nature in prison. Larkin brings to life a complicated person whose words penetrate the narrative, which is no easy task.
As a historical account, the complicated politics of those linked to this tumultuous period – Catholics, Protestants, and Republicans – is quite condensed, and one would want to either want to know the history of what happened or investigate it in more depth after seeing the film. Stylistically, it’s not particularly innovative (‘Citizen Lane’, another Irish documentary hybrid from earlier this year, was far more successful in its experimental approach). In summary, while ‘I, Dolours’ is imperfect, it remains compelling.