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Maeve (1981)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Belfast, the present. Martin Sweeney writes a letter to his daughter Maeve while a bomb scare takes place around him. Maeve returns to Belfast; her companion on the flight tells her as they circle a ringfort that he is writing an article on megalithic sites for the Journal of Lost Knowledge.

The past: Maeve visits her boyfriend, Liam, in his new flat above the Irish Society for Spiritual Awareness, where they make love.

The present: Maeve arrives home. Maeve's early teens: Maeve's sister, Roisin, is attacked by another child who calls her a "Fenian bitch". Soon after, a stone is thrown through their window as the family watch the Twelfth of July parade on television.

The present: as Maeve turns into her street, a bomb scare is taking place.

Maeve's childhood: she travels in her father's van as he sells cakes.

The present: Roisin is stopped by British soldiers, who check where she is living and roughly shove her through her door. She tells Maeve about an armed soldier who got into bed with her and her friend at a party.

The past: Maeve and Liam go for a drink in a Republican club. Martin's brother tells how Martin went to prison because he hid explosives in Martin's garden. Maeve angrily reminds him that Martin never informed on him.

Maeve's childhood, in the van with her father: he tells her stories about the Troubles of the 1920s.

The present: Roisin tells Maeve how their mother was furious with a young soldier who stopped a cab they were in. Maeve's childhood, in the van with her father: a man in a Protestant village warns her that, "you'll not sell your Free State cakes here."

The present: soldiers make Maeve and Roisin jump up and down and leer at their breasts.

The past: Maeve and Liam, on Cave Hill, argue about how the past should be remembered.

The present: Maeve and Roisin talk about what their mother wants for them, namely marriage and children. Roisin is critical of Maeve's feminism. They go out for a drink with Roisin's friends.

The recent past (in London): Liam visits Maeve in her flat. He asks her why she left Belfast and she tells him that she feels that London is a centre of energy and that its people are free of history. She wants to go to Art College; Liam tells her angrily that it is just a phase and that she will come back.

The present: Maeve and Roisin are on their night out. By now quite drunk, the young women hear firing on their way home and run for it.

Maeve's childhood: her father tells stories as she walks around the inner walls of a ringfort.

The present: Maeve's mother explains how she had kept the parlour aside for when the girls went courting. She remembers when Maeve was leaving for London and the 'wee squaddie' emptied her clothes on the ground when he was searching her luggage and all her underwear fell out.

Maeve in school: the girls recite Padraig Pearse's poem, The Mother. Roisin visits Maeve in hospital and tells her of the nuns' reaction on finding that the Fifth Form girls have been on a protest march. Later, on her own in the hospital ward, Maeve lies in her bed sobbing and an elderly woman sings Abide With Me to her.

The present: Maeve bumps into Liam in a second-hand bookshop. They walk in the graveyard and argue over the relationship between history, fiction, feminism and nationalism. Maeve, Roisin and their mother go for a day out to the Giant's Causeway. A man appears and tells Maeve that there is one octagonal stone in the formation. He then starts declaiming from the Old Testament. The three women walk away from him and share a bottle of whiskey. Martin, alone, continues his stories, remembering how he was wrongly arrested and put in Castlereagh Prison.