Five sisters living in Ireland on the brink of World War II must contend with a variety of disrupting family issues while struggling to make ends meet. — Genre: Feature Film-Drama — Rating: PG — Release Date: 15-JUN-1999 — Med... more »ia Type: DVD« less
Carol L. from COSHOCTON, OH Reviewed on 4/20/2013...
I thought this movie is more for female viewers since the story is about 4 sisters. I found the movie enjoyable.
3 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
"Dancing as if language no longer existed."
Mary Whipple | New England | 09/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by Pat O'Connor and exquisitely filmed (by Kenneth MacMillan) in the countryside of Donegal, this ensemble drama is adapted from the stage play by Brian Friel. Screenwriter Frank McGuinness sticks close to the dialogue of the play but opens up the rural cottage setting to include brief scenes of the town of Ballybeg, the stunning and untamed countryside, and the pagan harvest celebration, the Feast of Lughnasa. Set in 1936, the film focuses on the difficult lives of five unmarried sisters and an eight-year-old love child, when Ireland was on the verge of World War II and industrialization. The film stresses character and theme, rather than plot, highlighting the relationships among the sisters as they cope with the arrival of their brother, a priest returning from Uganda after twenty-five years, and the summer-long visit of Gerry Evans, father of Christina's child, Michael.
Kate (Meryl Streep), the sister who is "in charge," is the only real wage earner in the family. Rigid, severe, and lacking in humor, she believes pagan celebrations, such as the Feast of Lughnasa, which still provide fun and enjoyment in the countryside, are "uncivilized." Her priest brother (sensitively played by Michael Gambon), however, is now virtually a pagan himself. Though he is clearly unbalanced, he has learned the need of the poor for happiness, dancing, and community celebration, even if it is not church-sanctioned.
The other Mundy sisters help illustrate the chasm between Kate's attitudes and those of Fr. Jack. Maggie (Kathy Burke), the fun-loving, free-spirited, and most humorous of the sisters, constantly bursts into singing and dancing. Christina has fun during the summer with lover Gerry Evans but feels no need to marry him. Aggie (Brid Brennan) and Rose (Sophie Thompson), who earn small wages knitting gloves, work as the family's sad, "unpaid servants," and constantly chafe against Kate's strictures and the lack of fun. When Kate loses her job, the family is devastated, but it is at that moment that they discover the joy of dancing and recognize the need to celebrate life itself.
The dramatic opening with its photographs of African celebrations sets the tone for the film, and the music, sometimes featuring traditional Celtic instruments (accordian, fiddle, and bodhran), suggests common pagan roots. The cinematography is stunning, and the cast is as good as it gets. As is sometimes characteristic of plays converted to film, the dialogue is a bit exaggerated, as it has to be on stage, where close-ups and subtle gestures are not possible, and Streep's role is especially extreme, but the film is beautifully realized, and its thematic development is sensitive and memorable. Mary Whipple
One Irish summer
Kona | Emerald City | 04/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A man fondly recalls the summer of 1936, when he was eight years old in this Irish slice-of-life drama. Young Michael lives with his unmarried mother and her four spinster sisters, including Kate (Meryl Streep). The women make a meager living by knitting gloves, until a knitting factory opens nearby. Into their quiet and ordered lives comes their older brother, a priest who spent his life in Africa and has suffered a kind of breakdown, and Michael's long-unseen father, an adventurer who's on his way to fight against Franco. This is a very quiet and slow-paced film. It succeeds in capturing the lifestyle, character, and beauty of the Irish countryside, when all that mattered was your family and church. There is very little action - a motor cycle ride, listening to the radio, and on one special night, dancing in the yard - but that makes the film even more poignant. Based on an autobiographical play, Dancing at Lughnasa is a raw, no-frills look back in time, with an art-house-film feel. Fans of Meryl Streep will enjoy her fine performance as the strict and melancholy eldest sister. Michael Gambon gives a sympathetic performance as the confused priest who has come home to die."
Revisiting 'Dancing at Lughnasa'
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Given the luxury of owning films via DVD collections offers the opportunity to revisit at will the works the viewer found worthy of purchase. Such is the case with the luminous 'Dancing at Lughnasa', a 1998 release by director Pat O'Connor to the tunes of a lilting screenplay by Frank McGuinness based on Brian Friel's 1990 play of the same name. Though low key and not a popular hit at the boxoffice, this is one of those rare films that combines a very simple tale about common folks brought to life by a cast of extraordinary actors.
The story is set in Donnegal, Ireland in 1936 (just before WW II)choked the world) and simply relates the life of a family of five single sisters and the love child of one of them. The action is spare, centering on the visit of their brother home from the missionary work in Uganda inalterably changed from the experience, on the loss of job of the supporting eldest sister, and the return of the errant father of the love child for the summer, and other daily challenges. The stresses and strains these small events play on the sisters is eventually climaxed in the dancing festival that marks the Feast of Lughnasa (a persistent pagan celebration that challenges the very Catholic foundation of the Irish community), a compelling event that parallels the returned priest brother from the mission fields where he has gained insight into the desperate need for community, happiness, dancing and celebration as the essential needs of humankind.
The cast is flawless: Meryl Streep is superb as the elder sister bitterly bound to holding the family together at all costs, Catherine McCormack as the mother of the lovechild, Kathy Burke, Sophie Thompson and Brid Brennan; Michael Gambon as the deranged returned brother; and Rhys Ifans as the errant father of the child. They interact and play like fine chamber music. The brilliantly green and gorgeous countryside is captured eloquently by Kenneth MacMillan. In every aspect of production the film fits like a tightly intertwined puzzle. It simply glows. Revisiting 'Dancing at Lughnasa' is an even finer trip than the first exposure. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, September 06
"The story of the Mundy family of five sisters, a mentally disoriented brother, and a growing up boy would have been mundane and sleepy if poorly directed and mediocrelly cinematographed. This is not the case here. This is a beautifully done movie. The phasing is slow to heighten the ambience of the rural Irish countryside. It's like being thrown to that mid-30's era in rural Europe, far from the madding war drums. The acting by everone is top notch."