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Film / Waking Ned Devine

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Waking Ned Devine is a 1998 British comedy written and directed by Kirk Jones and set in rural Ireland, but filmed on the Isle of Man.

Jackie O'Shea (Ian Bannen) is a middle-aged man living in the rural Irish town of Tullymore with his wife, Annie (Fionnula Flanagan). When they discover that someone local has won the lottery, they team up with Jackie's friend Michael (David Kelly) to figure out which of their neighbors is soon to be much wealthier. The lucky man is the titular Ned Devine (Jimmy Keogh), who died from the shock of seeing the winning numbers. After speaking to Ned in a dream, Jackie decides to pretend to be Ned to collect their winnings. Needless to say, Hilarity Ensues once the lottery man arrives earlier than expected and Michael has to play Ned instead.

There's also a Love Triangle amongst the residents who are closer to 30 years old than to 60 years old, and the two apparently youngest characters take a scene or two to talk about God and provide commentary on events.

This film contains examples of the following tropes (some of which are inherently spoileriffic).

  • Attending Your Own Funeral: It starts out as Ned's funeral, but it ends with a eulogy of Michael when the lotto man makes an unexpected visit. Jackie even references the trope in the aforesaid surprisingly moving eulogy.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Well, it's mostly a Happy Ending, but the last shot of the main characters ends with a toast to the dead man who made it possible.
  • Black Comedy: Most notably Jackie and Micheal dealing with Ned's body and the car accident late in the movie.
  • Burn the Witch!: Played with: when Lizzy Quinn (oft called "the witch") refuses to play along, Michael claims that the town will burn her, as ominous music begins the background. Cut to a man lighting a match just outside her gate and looking threatening. Perhaps five seconds later, the music changes to a lighthearted tune, and it's revealed that the man is the first of a group of villagers bearing gifts to sway Lizzy to their side.
  • Character Development: Jackie starts the story as a rather scheming, greedy man who takes his wife for granted. Once he realizes Ned has died, he starts taking things a bit more seriously, reminded of what a good person Ned was, but it doesn't really click until he learns how high the stakes have gotten and Annie gives him a chewing-out, and he realizes that the whole village will need to be part of the scheme. See Pet the Dog for a truly unselfish gesture Jackie makes at the end of the movie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The payphone on the road out of town and the imminent return of Father Mulligan are both important elements of the resolution. Additionally, the lotto man's hay fever has a small role to play late in the movie.
  • Cutaway Gag: When Dennis comes to Jackie and Michael about cashing the cheque, he asks if they expect Mrs. Kennedy in the post office to cash it. We see Mrs. Kennedy singing randomly to herself before cutting back.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Lizzy Quinn is a rather unsympathetic case.
  • December–December Romance: Kitty has a bit of a sweet spot for Michael O'Sullivan and insists on a date with him as a condition for signing onto the scheme. Michael doesn't seem especially interested, however.
  • Dies Wide Open: Ned's eyes are of the "completely open" variety when Jackie finds his body. Jackie doesn't actually bother closing them until he and Michael are preparing the body for discovery.
  • Disappeared Dad: Only Maggie knows who Maurice's father is; as a result, Maurice has never had a proper father figure, though Finn wants the responsibility. Maurice's father is ultimately revealed to be none other than Ned Devine.
  • Dream Sequence: Jackie has a dream in which Ned Devine visits him and gives him his blessing, offering him a piece of chicken, which soon inspires Jackie to share the winnings with the whole village.
  • Gilligan Cut: When Maurice says that the winnings will be spent at Fitzgerald's, the priest laughs at the idea of seven million being spent down the pub. The scene cuts to the entire village crowding the bar—and then when Dennis demands to know who's paying for all of it, everyone begins clamoring for the tab.
    Dennis: I never thought I'd see the day!
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jackie and Michael are very close, even for inhabitants of a small village like Tullymore. It's played for laughs as well, as they often go swimming together and even share a bed when Jackie has a fight with Annie over the lotto money. Michael is mentioned to be a widower.
  • Irony: All of the lotto man's comments about how the news takes people and coming as a shock to the system, etc.
  • Jerkass: Pat, Finn's romantic rival, is smug and sniping. With that said, he does genuinely care for Maggie and serves as one of Ned's pallbearers.
    • Also "the witch" Lizzy Quinn, whose Establishing Character Moment is her yelling at Dennis for taking advantage of a poor old disabled woman... because he won't give her the toaster he repaired without her paying for it first, implying that her not paying for things is quite common. She doesn't get any better especially once she tries to extort all of her fellow townsfolk.
  • Kick the Dog: Every last one of Lizzy's scenes is there to establish that she's a mean, spiteful, self-centered old witch.
    • The opening scene is a minor one for Jackie, who tricks Annie into thinking they've won the lottery just to get her to bring him his apple tart, rather than getting it himself. This establishes Jackie as clever but kind of selfish and disrespectful. His changing attitude is a major arc of the movie.
  • Leitmotif: "Lux Aeterna", the Catholic communion hymn for the Requiem Mass, appears in strains throughout the movie and is sung during Ned's funeral. The folk song "The Parting Glass" is used as a motif as well.
  • Love Triangle: Between Maggie, Pig Finn, and Pat.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Maggie won't tell Finn if he's Maurice's father. At the end of the movie, she finally tells Jackie that the father is Ned Devine.
  • Maintain the Lie: Initially only Jackie has to pretend that Michael is actually Ned, but eventually the whole town has to play along.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: One of the subplots concerning Maurice's father.
    Finn: Is he mine, Maggie?
  • Manipulative Bitch: Lizzy threatens to report the fraud; not because she cares about the fraud itself, but because she wants 10% of the winnings instead of the roughly 2% she'd get if she split it evenly with everyone else.
  • Market-Based Title: Waking Ned Devine is in fact the title given to the film for the North American market. Its original title is simply Waking Ned.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When the lotto man enters the church during the church just as Jackie is about to give Ned's eulogy and sneezes, the assembled village breaks into worried whispers. Jackie is able to defuse the situation with very quick thinking.
  • May–December Romance: In the backstory. Ned Devine is Maurice's father.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Ned's funeral is one of the few things not played for laughs. When the lotto man arrives, Jackie's eulogy makes the funeral meaningful in a whole new way. The humor comes back when everyone leaves the church.
    Michael: Well, he must have been a great man, this Michael fellow.
    Jackie: I'll admit he had his faults...
  • Naked People Are Funny: Naked old men swimming? Not funny. Naked old man on a motorbike trying to beat the lottery man to Ned's cottage so he can impersonate Ned? Very funny.
  • Nice Guy: All everyone says about Ned Devine is that he was the sweetest, most generous man in the village, and that he would have shared out his winnings with the whole village.
  • Non-Answer: When Jackie asks the lotto man what kind of business he's in, the lotto man just replies "Business."
  • Obfuscating Disability: Lizzie can walk just fine without the scooter.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Jackie freezes on unexpectedly meeting the lotto man, Michael—hidden behind a rock—exclaims "Sweet Jesus!" realizing that he'll have to be Ned.
  • Pet the Dog: Maurice being Ned Devine's son, he and Maggie would be Ned's legal heirs and therefore entitled to the entire lottery winnings. But Maggie decides Maurice needs a father more than he needs a fortune, so she keeps the truth to herself and marries Finn.
    • Also a bit of a Pet the Dog moment for Jackie, who encourages Maggie to take the entire sum, who has come a long way since the beginning.
  • The Pig-Pen: "Pig" Finn's poor personal hygiene is the result of him being a pig farmer and is the main reason Maggie keeps rejecting him. Jackie tries to help him remedy this by giving him "expensive fruity soaps".
  • Playing Sick: Lizzie rides around on the scooter solely for the sympathy points (and possibly laziness). When it runs out of battery on the way to report the fraud, she just gets up and stomps away to the phone box without a problem.
  • Posthumous Character: Ned Devine, who we learn about primarily through Jackie's dream and Maggie's final lines.
  • Secondary Character Title: Ned Devine plays a role within the story however the real protagonists are Jackie and Michael.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When told that this could be their last night together for ten years, Jackie tells Annie "let's not waste it sleeping." She smiles and slides below the sheets as he shuts off the light.
  • The Smart Guy: Dennis Fitzgerald, who repairs household appliances, realizes that Jackie can't deposit the check for Ned's winnings, and figures out how to get the money anyway.
  • Stunned Silence: When told that the lotto ticket is worth 6,894,620 pounds, Michael can only make wordless squeaking noises.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Jackie seems to have a conversation with Ned's spirit in a dream after Jackie finds the winning lotto ticket.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: The lottery plot is the focus of the story, but the Love Triangle between Finn, Maggie, and Pat also takes a considerable portion of the time. Maurice and the replacement priest occasionally discuss matters on their own, but their talks never further the plot in any way and never get the attention of the other two subplots.
  • Those Two Guys: Maurice and the substitute priest, who spend their time doing something of a running commentary on the town's shenanigans in their conversations.
  • Tranquil Fury: Annie is perfectly calm when she tells Jackie he's on his own.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The film gives this vibe about the titular Ned Devine.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Jackie, Michael, and Annie, working together to find and ingratiate themselves with the lotto winner, and then organizing the scheme to claim the winnings.
  • Verbing Nouny: "Waking Ned Devine" in the US and "Waking Ned" in the UK.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When they find out how enormous the win is, Annie tells Jackie that she can't forgive getting Michael involved in a fraud that could send him to prison for the rest of his life. She relents when he comes up with his scheme to share the winnings with the rest of the town.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Michael says he's no good at pretending and Annie says "never told a lie in his life" before having to impersonate Ned.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Young Maurice, who reassures the young priest he's done a good job, summons seals by whistling, and fairly accurately guesses that all the lotto winnings will be spent down the pub.