The Irishman: “Can you leave the door open a little bit like that?”


The Irishman – featured on Netflix – tells the story of Frank Sheeran (played by Robert De Niro), a truck driver who finds his way into the Pennsylvania mafia where he becomes the top hit man.

The film masterfully connects Frank to some of the major events of the 1950s and 60s including but not limited to the election and assassination of John F Kennedy, the construction of Las Vegas, and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (the president of an American labour union who had ties to organized crime).

As I watched the film, the verse from scripture “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword” continually came to mind.  Martin Scorsese, the director of the film, shows the audience the dramatic ends of all those who pursue a life of organized crime.

He shows that most seem to die relatively young and early.  He also points out that such individuals meet their ends in rather brutal ways.

What I enjoyed most about the film is that it brought this little scripture passage about “living by the sword” to life.  It is often times not enough to give moral commands to sway people to do the good.

A child told not to steal may still go out and steal, unless they are afraid.  In which case when they lose their fear they are likely to do that which they were afraid of.  I think, in morality, people need to understand the consequences of their actions and grasp for themselves where their choices lead them.

Likewise, the audience has the opportunity to learn the lesson, as we see where violence actually leads – except in the case of Frank Sheeran.  Our protagonist seems to show us another consequence of such a lifestyle.

In the final scene, a priest is with Frank Sheeran teaching him a prayer for mercy.  Frank Sheeran admits he has no one to see this Christmas season and before the priest leaves asks the priest to leave the door open a bit.

Frank feels the anguish of being completely alone.   The only way he can escape from this feeling is by leaving his room door open just a little bit.  It is a telling reminder of the consequences of crime and sin in our own lives.  Sin leads us back into ourselves.  It cuts us off from our neighbor and God leaving us alone.

This experience of being completely alone is captured well by the character Frank Sheeran.  In the end his lifestyle has separated him from his family, his daughters, other people, and, in the lack of remorse felt, even it seems from God.

We can take a good look here and learn from the characters.  Those who live violently whether in actions or words will die violently.

Moreover, we can ask whether our lifestyle is bringing us into deeper relationship with God and neighbor or whether we too are beginning to feel that separation that comes from sin and need like Frank Sheeran the door opened just a little bit.

Raj Vijayakumar works at the Villa St. Martin in Montreal helping with retreat work

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 11:25h, 18 January Reply

    Thank you Raj!

  • Jim Radde
    Posted at 12:15h, 18 January Reply

    Very inviting Raj. Keep writing.

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