Picks and Pans Review: Into the West

updated 09/27/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/27/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Ciaran Fitzgerald, Ruaidhri Conroy

Rare is the movie that parents can watch with their children, rather than just dozing in the next seat. How refreshing, then, to find Into the West, an Irish film rich in poignancy and humor, which will enchant adults as well as kids. (At least kids 7 and older; those younger may have difficulty following the plot and be scared by a drowning scene.)

West, written by Jim Sheridan and directed by Mike Newell, is about two young brothers (Fitzgerald and Conroy) who adopt a wild stallion and stable it in their 16th-floor apartment in one of Dublin's seedier projects. Delighted with their new pet, they feed it carrots and wash it in the bathtub. Their father (Byrne), a "traveler" (the Irish version of an itinerant gypsy) who has settled in the city after his wife's death, is too drunk to take notice. The neighbors, however, object to sharing an elevator with a horse and call the cops. A corrupt policeman sells the horse to a rich breeder. The boys steal it back and, making like the desperadoes in their beloved American cowboy movies, head out west on horseback to escape their pursuers.

The Irish-born Byrne, his handsome face a haggard wreck, is affecting as the tormented father; his real-life wife, Barkin, as a fellow traveler who helps him track his sons, does fine by her character and accent. The real stars of the movie, though, are Fitzgerald and Conroy, who play the brothers with grace and charm. (PG)

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