I have seen this short film on EWTN a few times and I cry every time! It’s so sad but shows the beautiful soul of a child and the lives of the poor in any age.
“Janey Mary” is a short film based on the original short story by famous Irish author James Plunkett. It tells the story of a young five year old girl in 1940’s Dublin, who is sent out by her mother onto the cold and wet winter streets to beg for food.
In her desperate search for food she misses school and remembers that she’s also going to miss her old friend Fr. Benedict, the Augustinian priest.
Her search leads her to where a large crowd of people are queuing outside the Augustinian Church waiting for bread rations to be handed out.
It is here, in the mad scramble for food, that little Janey Mary is trampled on and left for dead – it is her old friend Fr. Benedict who risks his own life to save hers.
Writer/ director Paul Brady was adamant on keeping James Plunkett’s original vision of 1940’s Dublin.
It was a Dublin of hunger, poverty, strikes and food shortages – brought about by the after effects of World War II where everything was rationed to some degree. Between 1946-48 Boland’s Mills, Dublin’s largest flour mills went on strike. The only people who had bread were those who could make it themselves, or the Catholic Church who handed it out in rations to the poor.
Hunger, poverty, strikes and food shortages where most felt in ‘The Liberties’, which was the heart of Dublin and the Church of St. Nicholas of Myra was the centre of this area.
Because some of the original locations have long since gone, the film used other key similar locations that doubled for these places to achieve the film’s unique 40’s look.
All of the characters in the story were kept in the adaptation, e.g. Janey’s mother, her teacher and her old friend Fr. Benedict.
The most important character was Janey herself and the casting of this very special little girl took months because she had to be able to portray a huge range of emotion without saying a word.
Writer/ Director Paul Brady insists the story of Janey Mary carries with it several key themes e.g. poverty, struggle, pain, kindness and love.
He also insists that the key theme is universal namely no matter who we are, no matter what we do, in our time of need there will always be someone out there to lift us up and help us out.
Frail Old Man is played by John Brady who originally comes from The Liberties in central Dublin. John has lived and worked his whole life in the city and was asked by director Paul Brady, his son, to play a small but significant role in the film. John represents a character of a bygone era who actually in real life lived through the harsh times the film is set in.
He plays a poor homeless old man down in his luck. In those days there was no social welfare and if were not working or were not able to take care of yourself then you really felt the effects of been poor and hungry. The Church was seen as the unofficial social welfare arm of the government and helped allot of the city’s poor.
When Janey sees him on the street she gives him what little she has, as she realises he needs it more that her. This is one of the most powerful themes in the story.
Unfortunately on the 20th September this year John passed away. He was 70 years of age. His on set humour and charm will for ever be remembered by cast and crew alike and all who knew him. ”
The film Janey Mary is dedicated in his memory. May he rest in peace.