Tara (Robin Wright), the heroine of the sweet-souled Irish fable The Playboys, is a willful young woman who, with barely a shrug of the shoulders, commits what should be an outrageous sin: She has a baby out of wedlock-in fact, she won’t even say who the father is. Naturally, everyone in her small Irish village — the year is 1957 — is shocked. Yet the men all want to marry her anyway, and Tara herself seems amusingly at ease with her brash decision.
Perhaps a little too at ease. The Playboys, a movie of warmth and charm, is so glibly approving of its feminist-before-her-time heroine, and so quick to giggle at all the dowdy, tongue-clucking types who surround her, that the film, in spirit, seems a step removed from the harsh, provincial Ireland of the ’50s. Yet this romantic-triangle melodrama has been enacted with such good-natured ebullience that it wins you over anyway. Wright, poised and lovely, makes Tara’s stubborn desire for independence seem a true act of emotional survival, and Aidan Quinn is a chivalrous dream as the theatrical player who wins her fancy. Best of all is Albert Finney, all ogreish torment as the policeman who literally can’t tolerate the thought of life without Tara. He’s the one locked out of the triangle, yet it’s Finney, more than anyone, who gives The Playboys a drop of raw, unvarnished romanticism.