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Patrick Freyne: The English now have both our fourth green field and Lindsay Lohan

We meet Lindsay Lohan’s character Maddie on the way to a book launch as her scarf gets shut in the door of a taxi that then zooms off with it

“This week for my column I’m going to do a deep dive into the work of John McGahern.”

“Really?” says my editor. “That would be quite refreshing.”

“Only joking. I’m going to discuss Irish Wish, featuring Lindsay Lohan.”

“[Inaudible sob],” says my editor.


Me, rubbing my hands: “And then someone will say, ‘I can’t believe this rubbish is in the ‘so-called paper of record’, and I will laugh and laugh.”

That was last Friday. Sadly, it’s now the week after St Patrick’s Day and I hate Ireland and everything in it. In Irish Wish (Netflix), Lindsay Lohan plays a flame-haired literary editor named Maddie Kelly, who works for an Irish writer called Paul Kennedy (Alexander Vlahos). He has written a book called Two Irish Hearts, which, I assume, is about a Hibernian freak with two hearts.

We meet Maddie on the way to his book launch as her scarf gets shut in the door of a taxi that then zooms off with it, but not in a manner that decapitates her (that’s a different film), just one that makes her seem adorably klutzy. She wears glasses, rarely asserts herself and has more or less written Irish Paul’s whole book without taking credit. She is completely unthreatening. At no point does she say, “I take what I want and do as I please. Other people are but ants to me”, even though that sort of thing is very relatable to Irish Times readers. It’s simply not considered “likable” enough in American romance films.

Maddie calls her mother (Jane Seymour), who is in Iowa, having wrangled a contract that means she can be in this film without meeting her costars or setting one foot on this accursed island. They discuss Maddie’s crush on Irish Paul. Maddie frets that her mother will tell her neighbours about her love life. “Nobody cares in Des Moines”, says her mother, parroting that city’s tourist-board slogan.

Maddie resolves to tell Paul about her inappropriate workplace longings, but she hasn’t reckoned with her friends. “He’s Irish? Does he have a sexy accent?” one of them asks of Irish Paul. She doesn’t say, “Of course he does, he’s from north Louth!” because Paul’s accent is actually from the very far east of Ireland (Wales) and is thus missing the sneery, sensuous whine of which bards have sung. Anyway, Maddie misses her chance. We flash-forward several months and Maddie arrives at Knock airport for the wedding of her Paddy-chasing friend Emma to her beloved.

Let’s appreciate this for a moment. Lindsay Lohan at Knock! She’s the biggest diva those parts have seen since Herself turned up in the late 19th century! She graces the airport like an apparition before she and a hunky English wildlife photographer (Ed Speleers) reach for the same bag and struggle angrily over it. He has an authentic English accent and his name is James Thomas. (He gets to have two first names because his country once had an empire.) This cranky misunderstanding is, in the parlance of romcoms, known as a meet-cute, and all over the world there are men who believe that colliding with people while insulting them is normal courtship practice. (In fact, it’s only true on the bumper cars in Tramore.)

Eventually, Maddie arrives at the big country house in Mayo where Paul’s family lives. No one asks how it is they own this huge estate, but Irish viewers will know the reason: conquest. Even though they are ostensibly Catholics, the Kennedys clearly took the soup long enough to hang on to the place. There’s a different version of this film called What Did Your Family Do During the Famine? or Protestant Soups and the Families That Enjoyed Them.

Overcome with lust for Paul, Maddie sits on a mystical stone chair and wishes that she were the one he was marrying. Ireland is a magical place, with a young, educated workforce and a flexible corporate-tax system, so St Brigid appears to the sound of a twinkling harp. (A similar sound can be heard when you set up a tax-efficient PO box in the docklands.) Then Maddie wakes up in bed to find that Paul is in the shower in the en suite and they are engaged to be wed.

Huzzah! The fabric of reality has been altered by a whimsical saint! Maddie suddenly has no memory of the previous few months of her life, and a stained-glass image of St Brigid sometimes winks at her. Another version of this film would end suddenly at this point with Maddie checking herself into a clinic. Luckily, she is American so can’t afford to do that.

Back in the fancy house it’s clear that, unlike James Thomas, Irish Paul doesn’t know anything about Maddie’s hopes and dreams

The nice Englishman with two names is hired to do the wedding photos, and the pair have a day together scouting locations in a little red sports car lent to him by a manic pixie Mayo publican. They walk along the Cliffs of Moher. “I think I just stepped into a James Joyce novel!” cries Maddie with delight, thinking, of course, of My Favourite Cliffs, the book Joyce wrote between Dubliners and More of My Favourite Cliffs.

On their way home a storm fells a tree, blocking their passage, and they go to a pub where they Irish-dance and drink Guinness among the Irish who fleece them for every penny they have. (It’s not explicitly stated, but I know what we’re like.) James Thomas also teaches her the most erotic game of all: darts. The man has a deft and sensuous touch on the dart.

Back in the fancy house it’s clear that, unlike James Thomas, Irish Paul doesn’t know anything about Maddie’s hopes and dreams. James Thomas questions how she could be with a man with just one first name. She takes offence. He storms off. “I’m off to Bolivia to photograph an endangered tree lizard”, he cries, which is, I think, a euphemism. So now Maddie is torn between the Secretly Ascendency Irish Writer and the Perfidious Sexy Darts Photographer and, also, going to hospital for an MRI, which is still an option.

A hilarious brawl breaks out at the wedding, at which point Maddie realises that it is James Thomas she really wants, meaning it will be Paul who is alone and photographing the endangered tree lizard (figuratively speaking). This turns out to be what St Brigid wanted Maddie to understand all along, and so she changes reality back to the way it was before. At this point I can’t help thinking about all the statistically probable car crashes and accidents that happened in those four months and how reconfiguring reality affects the balance of life and death.

It also makes me wonder if there might be an alternative reality where a talented actor like Lohan could be cast in a prestige drama for change. I suppose none of this is really our concern, and we should focus on the outcome before us: James Thomas has won the heart of our heroine. So the English now have both our fourth green field and Lindsay Lohan.