Directed by Kirk Jones, Waking Ned (titled Waking Ned Devine across the pond) was one of 1998’s greatest feel-good comedy delights, and has lost absolutely none of its charm and sparkle.
Starring Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan and James Nesbitt, it is packed to the rafters with emerald-tinted Irish humour, and remains one of my all-time favourites to this day.
When word reaches elderly best pals Jackie O’Shea (Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (Kelly), that a fellow resident of Tulaigh Mhór – their quaint Irish village of only 52 people – has won the Irish National Lottery, they, along with Jackie’s wife Annie (Flanagan), plot to discover the identity of the winner.
In their quest to uncover who, indeed, is the secret millionaire, the trio obtain a list of regular lottery players from post office owner Mrs Kennedy (Maura O’Malley) and invite the potential winners to an evening soirée, at which they will attempt to coax the winner into revealing their identity.
Once their guests have left, the three would-be detectives are no closer to an answer, however Annie realises that one Tulaigh Mhór resident was conspicuous by his absence – the reclusive Ned Devine (Jimmy Keogh).
In his excitement, Jackie pays a late-night visit to Ned, only to find him at home in front of the TV, the fabled lottery ticket in hand, a smile on his face, but sadly dead from shock.
Asleep that night, Jackie has a dream that the deceased Ned – with no family to claim the ticket – wishes to share the winnings with his friends.
Jackie wakes up after the vision, and before dawn, he and Michael return to Ned’s house to gather Ned’s personal information, and begin hatching a plan that will see the whole village involved in a scheme that could change their lives forever...
With a joyously jubilant tone throughout, and one of the most hilarious motorcycle scenes ever filmed, Waking Ned is an underdog triumph that I suspect has warmed the heart of every viewer ever to have given it a chance.
Bannen and Kelly are outstanding throughout, perpetuating a friendship between their characters that most of us would be lucky to treasure for five years, let alone a lifetime.
Flanagan, as the grounding influence between these cheeky old schemers, is superb, and the dynamic between the three is a testament to their understated skill and talent.
The Irish are some of the most naturally funny people on the planet; Irish people in the autumn of their years, even more so.
If the charm of such trademark buoyant and down-to-Earth humour brings a smile to your face, then Waking Ned deserves a place on your list of favourites. In all likelihood, it will jump straight to the top.
A masterpiece of timing, comedy and heart, once you’ve seen it you will never look at life the same way again. Along, indeed, with your choice of leathers...