Alex Fegan's lively and poignant documentary is filled with Irish people aged 100 or older (the one ringer is 113-year-old Kathleen Snaveley who relocated to New York at 21). Fegan, the director of The Irish Pub, based his timing on the centenary of 1916’s Easter Rising. That means that all 30 subjects—22 women and eight men—were alive when Ireland became a free state in 1922. So what's their secret to longevity? Is it Jameson, Guinness, a seething hatred for the British? (My Republican grandfather tried the latter tack, but he only made it to 72.)
The answer isn't quite so simple. Kitty Fingleton (100) believes it's because, "I never ate a vegetable in my life." Mostly, they talk about their lives. They may not remember what they had for breakfast, but they remember their first pair of shoes, their first kiss, and the nuns and priests who knocked them around (the words "brute" and "savage" get a workout). Some are political, some are not.
One knew freedom fighter Michael Collins, and another served in the IRA. They recall characters in 2015's Brooklyn in which Saoirse Ronan's protagonist trades 1950s Ireland for a better life in the United States. Fegan profiles the people who stayed behind, which makes his film unavoidably sad, but they're also the unheralded citizens who kept the old sod going when everyone else jumped ship.