Irish Eye oh Hollywood: Live by Night on Christmas Day

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
December / January 2017

It’s not exactly a typical holiday feel-good movie, but Live by Night ­– directed by and starring Ben Affleck, based on the novel by Irish American master Dennis Lehane – is set to be one of the big movies of the Christmas season.

In fact, the flick ­– a kind of Great Gatsby meets Boardwalk Empire – will be released on Christmas Day. Live by Night also stars Irish great Brendan Gleeson as well as Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, and Chris Cooper.

Live by Night is based on the second book in Lehane’s Joe Coughlin trilogy, which kicked off with The Given Day and concluded with World Gone By. Live by Night follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a Boston police captain (played in the film by Gleeson) who falls into a life of crime. Coughlin (Affleck) at first is working with the Irish mob in Boston. But after ending up in prison, Coughlin heads to Florida and elsewhere in an attempt to become the kingpin of a new criminal empire. Lehane’s book captures the complicated position of Irish Catholics in the 1920s. They were assimilating and gaining respectability in big cities, from police precincts to city hall, but were still over-represented in the underclass, all the while being targeted by nativists and bigots represented by the anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant Ku Klux Klan.

This, of course, isn’t the first time Ben Affleck will play an Irish American. He catapulted to fame playing Chuckie Sullivan in the South Boston classic Good Will Hunting. After a limited Christmas Day release, Live by Night will open nationwide in January 2017. ♦

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