Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Life After Life (1994)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Life After Life (1994)
For Screen Two, BBC, tx. 2/4/1995
85 mins, colour
DirectorTim Fywell
Production CompanyBBC Northern Ireland
ProducerTony Rowe
ScriptGraham Reid
PhotographyBarry Ackroyd

Cast: Lorcan Cranitch (Leo Doyle), Bridget Turner (Frances Doyle), Ingrid Craigie (Mary Carlin), Jonathan Arun (Ronnie Mercer), Des McAleer (Paddy John O'Neill), Michelle Fairley (Roisin Donaghy)

Show full cast and credits

Leo Doyle, a convicted IRA murderer, is released into the community after 14 years in prison. He soon finds that the ceasefire has robbed him of both purpose and identity, and his difficult relationship with his family worsens after they discover his affair with a former fiancée...

Show full synopsis

Life After Life is an addition to the rich vein of TV drama made around the ceasefires in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s. While not quite packing the emotional punch of writer Graham Reid's later loyalist tragedy The Precious Blood (BBC, 2/4/1995), Life After Life shows the paradox that peace brings its own problems.

Republican Belfast is shown as a community lying to itself about both the past and the future. It is sexually prudish but settles all disputes with violence, lionises the history of the 'struggle' but, as Leo finds out, regards its former fighters as an embarrassment. Assuming they will be treated as heroes on release, Leo and Paddy John find themselves an irrelevance - seen most vividly in the contempt felt for Paddy John by his wife and children.

Life After Life lacks the narrative coherence of Reid's other works. Some plot points seem to be left hanging; after one powerful scene which shows how wrong Leo is to think the young respect him, we see nothing more of the youth centre he works in. The drama's strengths lie in its dialogue and characterisation, particularly in the prosaic relationship between Leo and Roisin.

Leo is an interesting central character: not just a former killer but also, frankly, a bit of a fool. Lorcan Cranitch perfectly captures his self-importance and pomposity at being part of the 'war'. His family are embarrassed when he insists on painting the fence around his father's grave in the Irish colours, despite his father's disapproval of violence. Leo's vision of Ireland and of his cause is shown as self-deceiving. As ever, Reid is scathing of the lies that underpin 'the armed struggle'.

Leo's self-proclaimed heroism is much mocked by the tough and bitter Roisin, who finally rounds on him for his slavish devotion to a cause. For all her harshness, she comes across as the more sympathetic character - intelligent, realistic, but aware that, because of circumstance and poor judgment, she is stuck in a situation from which she can't escape. Her revival of her old affair with Leo is born of sheer frustration rather than the love that Leo imagines, and her loveless but mutually dependent marriage to Biff makes for a painfully realistic demonstration of personal dreams gone sour. Life After Life presents the peace as a kind of hangover after the night before, with lots to regret and little resolved.

Phil Wickham

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Hard lessons (3:40)
2. IRA memorial (1:54)
3. From father to son (3:12)
4. Roisin (4:03)
Eureka Street (1999)
Love Lies Bleeding (1993)
Precious Blood, The (1996)
You, Me and Marley (1992)
Ackroyd, Barry (1954-)