There’s not much that goes on in the small, quiet Irish hamlet of Tullymore – until word gets out that someone in town just won the Irish National Lottery. The tightly knit hamlet of just 53 inhabitants immediately buzzes with gossip at the news. Everyone eyes everyone else for any slight change in lifestyle in an effort to determine the lucky winner. Finally, a chicken supper is held to gather the townsfolk in a desperate attempt to ferret him or her out. Everyone in town shows up except for one person: Ned Devine. Immediately, his two friends Michael O’Sullivan (David Kelly) and Jackie O’Shea (Ian Bannen) rush to his home. They find Ned sitting in front of the TV clutching the winning lotto ticket in one hand. Ned is IR£6,894,620 richer. Unfortunately, it had also reduced Tullymore’s population to 52.
The story of Waking Ned Devine follows Tullymore’s hilarious decision to draw up a scheme in order to claim the lotto winnings for themselves. Seeing that the lottery officials from Dublin haven’t a clue who Ned Devine is, Jackie and Michael decide that Michael can impersonate Ned. And with the whole town in on the scheme, they proceed to go to great lengths in order to fool the visiting lotto official that Ned Devine is alive, well, and ready to claim his winnings.
This indie movie is one of those near-perfect comedies. It’s filled with oddball characters, silly situations, just the right amount of laugh-out-loud moments, and enough heart to make it perfect for Sunday afternoons. In one of the film’s most famous, and funniest, scenes, Michael has to rush to Ned’s home to meet the lottery official to keep up the facade. The acclaimed Irish actor David Kelly, who plays Michael, had to ride a bike to Ned’s home completely naked (except for a helmet).
Perhaps the movie’s greatest moment is when the town uses the real Ned Devine’s funeral to lay the identity of Michael O’Sullivan to rest. It’s of course all part of the plot to convince the lottery official that the claim is legitimate. But what is a completely silly situation soon organically unravels as a real tribute to Michael, who gave up his identity in order to make the entire town of Tullymore IR£6,894,620 richer. It’s moments like this that make Waking Ned Devine a memorable Irish classic.
It also helps that the story is rooted in some truth. Ireland has a long history of lucky lotto winners.Joe.ie note that the first winner of the EuroMillions lottery was Limerick’s Dolores McNamara, who bagged €115 million (£104.3 million) in 2005. From 2005 to 2017, there have been 11 Irish winners of the EuroMillions lottery. Today, Lottoland states that the EuroMillions jackpot amounts to €25 million (£22.6 million). It’s far from the £100 million mark, but it’s also more than three times the IR£6.8 million fictional jackpot that Ned Devine won in 1998. The film harkens back to a time when lottery wins were not the mind-bogglingly figures they are today. The community theme of the film is a big part of what makes Waking Ned Devine stand out from the many other quirky comedies about small Irish towns – it’s unmistakably close to the Irish spirit. It’s as much a dramatic comedy as it is a fictional autobiography of small town Ireland.
Can’t get enough of Irish/British black comedies? Check out Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back), a delightfully comic look at an even darker situation.