Nora (2000)




Director:     Pat Murphy. 

Starring:     Susan Lynch (Nora Barnacle), Andrew Scott (Michael Bodkin), Vinnie McCabe (Uncle Tommy), Veronica Duffy (Annie Barnacle), Ewan McGregor (James Joyce), Aedin Moloney (Eva Joyce), Pauline McLynn (Miss Kennedy), Neil Conroy (Maid), Darragh Kelly (Cosgrave), Alan Devine (Gogarty), Peter McDonald (Stanislaus Joyce), Paul Hickey (Curran),  Kate O'Toole (Miss Delahunty), Martin Murphy (George Russell), Karl Scully (John McCormack).

 famous author James Joyce and his love Nora Barnacle


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Dublin 1904.  Nora Barnacle receives a beating from her father for seeing a boy whom he does not approve.  James Joyce sees Nora on the street, approaches her and arranges a meeting with her.  She works as a bar maid in a hotel.  She misses her first meeting with Jim because her employer makes her stay and work a different shift than what she wanted.  Her employer is not happy with her. 

Jim's friends Cosgrave and Gogarty tell him that they are going to see Mrs. Max.  Jim arranges another meeting and this time Nora shows up.  Very quickly they are kissing.  She is very forward.  She takes him to a secluded spot and starts to undo his pants.  Jim has an orgasm and Nora asks if he has a handkerchief. 

Jim's friends do not approve of his new girlfriend because she is a lowly bar maid.  One comments: "He's no snob is he?"  Jim and Nora walk along the coast and she tells him that she loves him.  Jim learns from his publisher that his firm is severing their relationship.  His material is not suitable for the Irish homestead.  Jim later comments that the Irish people are frightened of themselves and of the church. 

Nora is escorted by Cosgrave to see Jim sing publicly.  When Jim sees the two joking around in the audience he jumps to the conclusion that she and his friend are having an affair.  Jim is a very jealous man.  He scolds Nora and tells her that he goes to whores, but she does not really believe him. Nevertheless, Nora is very upset.  But the next day Jim shows up at her work and they go for a walk.  Cattle are driven down the urban street and Jim becomes very scared.  It seems that he hates things with horns.  In his panic he also reveals his bit of paranoia to Nora when he says that there are "so many people out to get us.  If I stay here, they'll kill us."

He decides to travel to Trieste, Italy with Nora.  His fellow writer Yates gives him a few shillings to help pay his way.  He has a job with "the Berlitz people".  In Italy he and Nora have a fight and he leaves her to meet his employers alone.  After dark he finally returns and Nora is very upset with him.  He explains: "I got caught in a fight." 

They get an apartment and Nora is soon pregnant.  She is a bit unhappy with Jim.  She says: "He's a stranger to me.  Sometimes I can't understand half of what he is saying."  The couple has a baby boy.  Jim's brother Stanley comes to visit them.  Nora now speaks Italian fluently.  Stanley came to help save his brother from excessive drinking.  He tells Nora that his brother is a genius and he wants to help him any way he can.  But Stanley is not always the most patient of protectors.  One night Nora finds Stanley kicking the drunken Jim who is down on the apartment floor. 

Three years later.  Stanley has returned for a visit to see Nora.  She now has two children: her son Giorgio and her daughter Lucia.  Jim is back in Ireland.  Nora shows Stanley one of Jim's letters to her saying that he wonders if Giorgio is really his son.  She bitterly says that Jim is back in the land of the betrayers and he is listening to and believing the gossip of his friends who have no love for her.  Stanley tries to comfort Nora by telling her that Jim finds rejection everywhere he goes and if he doesn't, then he invents it in his head.  Stanley tells her to write Jim and defend herself, but she refuses. 

In Ireland one of Jim's friends tells him that jealous Cosgrove and Gogarty lied to him about Nora in order to keep him exactly where they wanted him. Jim returns to his wife.  But Jim is still consumed with jealousy.  It seems that Jim is trying to force Nora into having sex with an admirer, Senor Prezioso.  While she poses for a painting, Jim and Prezioso watch her intently.  One day Jim tells Nora that he is going on holiday with the children and has asked Prezioso to keep her company while he is gone.  He sends the children off.  Nora watches as he talks with Prezioso.  When Jim returns to the house he wants to know if she had sex with Prezioso.  She says nothing happened, but he does not seem to believe her. 

One day Jim virtually attacks Prezioso in public accusing him of having sex with his wife.  Nora is totally shocked and Prezioso bursts out sobbing.  Nora runs back to the apartment.  She tells Jim that nothing happened, but he only replies: "It doesn't matter what you say.  I'll never know."  Nora decides to take the children and return to Ireland telling Jim "This is over now." 

In Ireland Nora stops in to talk with her husband's publisher.  She asks him why his firm has not published her husband's work.  The publishers says that there are perverts in some of his stories and that there are suggestions of sex going on.  In "The Dead" there is "something dirty going on in that story."

Nora and her children are staying with her parents.  One day she is out with the children on the beach and Jim just suddenly shows up.  He tells Nora that his "Dubliners" will never be published in Ireland.  He wants to go back to Italy and never return to Ireland, but Nora recalls the image of Prezioso sobbing and says that she will never go back to Italy. 

The next scene is of Jim, Nora and the children loading into a cart for the start of the journey back to Italy. 

The "Dubliners" was published in Ireland in 1914.  Jim and Nora stayed together for the rest of their lives. 


Good movie.  My wife and I enjoyed the movie very much.  It's great watching movies that go into depth about relationships between people and especially so if there is something amiss in the people involved in the relationship.  That Joyce certainly had a lot of personality disorders and yet his wife stayed with him.  He put her through hell with his irrational jealousy and his attempts to force her into having sex with other men.   James Joyce also had a number of phobias and suffered from paranoia. So, hats off to Nora for weathering all his tempests.  Susan Lynch as Nora Barnacle was excellent.  (She won the Irish equivalent of an Oscar for best actress.) 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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