Daniel Barry, parish priest of Borrisokane, Co Tipperary, feels like the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although he works hard to fulfill his duty, he has nothing in common with his parishioners and secretly fears he has lost his vocation. The things that make his life worthwhile – music, and especially, the cinema – he enjoys alone. When forced by his Bishop to start a big fund-raising campaign, he attempts to reconcile his passion for film with his duty to the Church through the creation of the Stella Cinema.
In Ireland in the mid-1950s rural electrification is underway, young people are leaving for work in England, and the Bishops are becoming worried about the position and power of the Church in this changing world. Bishop Hegerty wants to build bigger, new churches across the diocese that will be the focus of community life. Father Barry is in favour of modernisation, but doesn’t see the need for a new church. Encouraged by the new schoolteacher, Tim McCarthy, he decides to follow his passion and establish a local cinema in Borrisokane, bringing light and joy to the town and, at the same time, raising funds for the new church. But he faces plenty of opposition: from the Bishop and a number of influential parishioners, led by Brendan McSweeny, who see film as a source of moral corruption; from locals who doubt they can transform a church hall into a proper cinema in a few weeks; and ultimately from his own crisis of conscience when he discovers that Tim has fallen in love with Molly Phelan, a married woman.
STELLA DAYS is the story of a man, a story about the conflict between love and duty, hope and faith, and between the excitement of the unknown and the security of the familiar. It encapsulates the dilemma of Ireland in the mid-1950s – on the cusp of the modern but still clinging to the traditions of church and a cultural identity forged in very different times.