Of Men and Angels

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Mike O’Donahue (Jack Byrne) is a seldom-published Irish American writer in the postbeat environs of the Bay area. A tall, rangy man with a rough exterior, he also has a heart and wallet always available to the denizens who ride in the backseat of his Desoto cab. At night he records their stories, trying to make sense out of a world he feels powerless to control. He has dreams, big dreams: to have his work make a difference.

Mike’s lover is almost his complete opposite. Maria Montoya (Theresa Saldana) is a cultured and beautiful refugee, one of Mike’s most important “saves.” As the film opens, Maria breaks a long-standing agreement by becoming pregnant and demands that Mike forget his hopeless attempts at writing and become a family man. Although his love for the world appears boundless, Mike runs in terror from personal responsibility. The war of dreams begins.

Into this volatile situation drops Reilly (John Malloy), an alcoholic, craggy elder statesman of the Irish literary world, “the Great man” himself, who has passed out in Mike’s cab. . . broke. Overjoyed at finding his spiritual mentor, and over the protests of Maria, Mike installs Reilly on their front-room couch. But Mike’s joy is short-lived, for this witty, sculptured man loves children almost as much as he loves Irish whiskey. Reilly and Maria forge an alliance of the spirit, and Mike is left out in the cold.

Devastated and hurt, Mike drives endless hours in his cab, eventually stumbling into the fiddle of a bizarre plot. In this wild, funny, haphazard world of men and angels, where heads are in the clouds but feet are stuck firmly on the ground, Mike has to make some difficult choices. William Farley (Citizen USFF ‘83 ) returns with an ambitious, insightful, beautifully written and acted film that radiates an inner beauty, like slash of sunlight breaking through clouds. Of Men and Angels is a remarkably vivid, authentic and ultimately joyful film.

— Lawrence Smith

Screening Details

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