Breakfast on Pluto

Here is the story of an Irish transvestite named Kitten, who might be the son of a priest, who flounces through the early 1970s seeking only the fluffiest things in life, trying to ignore the IRA bombings and other turbulent events that surround him. Here is a story told in chapters, occasionally somewhat out of order, eloquently narrated in a purring whisper by Kitten himself and set to such period tunes as “Sugar Baby Love” and Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey.” Here is a story where two robins (yes, the birds) sometimes observe and comment on the action.

Here is “Breakfast on Pluto,” an affectionately free-spirited film from Irish director Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game,” “Interview with the Vampire”), whose 1997 film “The Butcher Boy” was, like this one, based on a novel by Patrick McCabe. The story is a merry one, and Jordan and McCabe tell it creatively, with an infectious zest for life. It does one of the best things a movie can do: It makes you feel good.

As a baby, Patrick “Kitten” Braden (Cillian Murphy) was left on the doorstep of Father Bernard (Liam Neeson) in a small Irish town, and subsequently raised by a family that didn’t know what to make of him. As the lad grew up, he wanted to find his real mother — he’s told she looked like Mitzi Gaynor — and, for some reason, to dress like a woman himself. After being kicked out of Catholic school for a variety of shenanigans (including writing a steamy narrative about his conception and handing it in as a class assignment), he heads to London in search of his mum, not having realized yet that “family” can be wherever you find it.

Patrick wants life to be a never-ending cabaret of giggles and good times, and is bothered by the fact that so many people around him keep talking about how “serious” things are. Somehow he gets involved with the Irish Republican Army, as well as with a glam-rock band called Billy Hatchet and the Mohawks (he dresses as their on-stage squaw). He is accused of planting a bomb that destroys a London nightclub, though of course he had nothing to do with it. He semi-accidentally almost becomes a prostitute.

Yet none of these things seem to have much impact on him. He remains blithe and graceful, intent on enjoying life. He tells a friend that he likes to pretend life is just a story, that it’s not real. “Otherwise I might cry and never stop,” he says, in that lilting Irish brogue of his that makes everything sound like poetry.

Cillian Murphy’s performance is a non-stop delight, and a tightrope-walk, too. How do you stay grounded in reality while playing someone so surreal? Murphy manages it: Patrick may be a loon, but he’s a lovable one. That’s three surprisingly good performances from Murphy in 2005 — the Scarecrow in “Batman Begins,” the bad guy in “Red Eye,” and now this. Kitten Braden himself would be impressed by such range.

A- (2 hrs., 8 min.; R, a lot of harsh profanity, some sexual dialogue, a little brief nudity, brief violence.)