This Is My Father chronicles the journey of a disillusioned Chicago schoolteacher who returns to Ireland with his nephew in search of the man who was his father. Widowed and childless, the lonely Kieran Johnson (James Caan) is no longer able to relate to his students. His fragile mental state is mirrored by his family circumstances: his mother (Françoise Graton) has had a stroke and is unable (or unwilling) to communicate and his divorced sister, Betty (Susan Almgren), is burdened with their mother's care while trying to raise her troubled teenage son Jack (Jacob Tierney).

Kieran and Jack find an old photo of Kieran's mother as a young girl locked arm in arm with a farmer, and a book of poems inscribed with the name "Kieran." Thus begins Kieran's quest to uncover his origins, and he takes Jack with him on a trip to Ireland. Their journey will be as much about the future as it is about the past.

In Ireland, Kieran and Jack end up in a bed and breakfast run by settled "travelers" -- Ireland's version of gypsies -- Seamus Kearney (Colm Meaney) and his fortune telling mother (Moira Deady), who recount the fateful story of his mother and father's love affair.

We go back to 1939 and the spirited young Fiona Flynn (Moya Farrelly), daughter of the embittered widow Flynn (Gina Moxley) has just been sent home from boarding school, having had "a bit of a row with the nuns." Kieran O'Day (Aidan Quinn) was adopted at age eight and carries the sorrow and stigma of being a "poorhouse bastard." He and his foster parents, Mr. & Mrs. Maney are tenants on the widow's land. One evening Fiona invites the handsome Kieran to a dance and he accepts. The evening is uneventful until Kieran finds himself enraged in a fight to protect Fiona's honor. This act of chivalry deepens Fiona's attraction to him.

The two soon fall in love. Their relationship intensifies, despite the difference in their age and social status. This does not go unnoticed by the Priest and others in the community, and a fire and brimstone Missionary Priest, Father Quinn (Stephen Rea), is called to the village, and succeeds in frightening Kieran to his very core. But Kieran's love is stronger than his fear and the two vow to run away together. That night their passion wins over restraint.

But the world they looked so forward to sharing is shattered when the vindictive widow discovers their tryst. This sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to tear the lovers apart. Although they yearn to be together, the grip of the widow, and that of the religious community, prove to be devastating.

In despair, faced with never being with the love of his life again, Kieran takes a desperate action that will forever change his and Fiona's lives and the lives of generations to come.

Copyright © 1999, Sony Pictures Classics.
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