The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Fergal Ward
Thomas is a bachelor who lives on a farm of approximately eighty acres which lies outside Maynooth, on the old main Dublin/Galway road, just after the Intel factory and before the Carton estate. The Industrial Development Authority (IDA) became interested in Thomas’s farm without specifying precisely why. However, the presence of the technology behemoth Intel in such close proximity to the farm would lead any dispassionate observer to consider that Intel might have some interest.
Thomas farmed the land by raising cattle on it. He was not a man who was interested in luxuries and lived alone in the house with an accumulation of yellowing newspapers, bundles of old correspondence and much other “junk” besides. He did not throw anything out. Around the yard of his farm, there was a strong sense of using items for more than one purpose. He clearly did not believe in the throwaway economy. The way in which Thomas lived might lead you to believe that the farm was in some remote location but of course it was anything but a remote location. It was right beside one of the most high tech facilities in the world.
Reid was also thrifty as demonstrated by buying the supermarket’s own label fish rather than a more expensive branded product. He indulged himself hardly at all but one of his pleasures was to ring his local radio station to make a request for a song from his more youthful years. The pleasure on his face when talking to the radio presenter was immense. A man of simple pleasures who enjoyed his life the way it was, thank you very much. He did not need it to be disturbed. He did not want or need more money.
However, his simple existence was of little or no concern to the IDA who decided to buy his farm. He was not interested in selling the farm at any price. No amount of cajoling by representatives of the IDA could budge him. Therefore the IDA issued a compulsory purchase notice to acquire the farm under the Industrial Development Act 1986. Thomas met the challenge by issuing proceedings which resulted in a High court trial and a Supreme Court appeal.
Ward shows the calm, slow-moving world of Thomas tending his cattle which stand in stark contrast with the initial aerial photographs of the vast Intel facility. Two entirely different in scale, economic activities are taking place side by side.
Thomas himself is filmed doing his daily chores around the farm and in the house with some occasional commentary by him. The bustling world of big business is represented by the IDA and their agents. These parts are played by actors as are the barristers and judiciary in relation to the trial and the appeal. Imaginatively Ward uses the actual farmyard as the locus of the court room scenes. There is a surreal quality to see, on a farm, barristers and the judiciary attired in their black and white uniforms, gowns billowing in the breeze, as they speak words from the official transcript of the legal proceedings. The end result are court “room” scenes which have a striking veracity and which are far more effective than many staged for more melodramatic effect in conventional courtrooms.
Ward has used skill to tell this David and Goliath story. The inequality of the protagonists is stark. However, the simplicity of Thomas’s position and the arrogance of the IDA created a stick to beat them with. Ward has taken a contemporary aspect of life in the twenty first century and shown that a David still has a huge contribution to make to the overall well-being of society.