Dancing At Lughnasa
Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Sophie Thompson, Brid Brennan, Rhys Ifans
Directed by Pat O'Connor
Five unmarried sisters in Ireland, circa 1936. Amid harsh poverty, these Christian women listen to a radio tune and dance with an abandon that rivals a pagan harvest festival. Onstage, in Brian Friel's Tony-winning play, the moment is one of theatrical magic. Director Pat O'Connor's screen version can't match it. The release of tension doesn't feel as powerful in a film that lets us see outside the Mundy sisters' constricted kitchen. Still, a luminous cast reveals long-buried feelings. Meryl Streep finds the expansive soul behind prim schoolteacher Kate. And she is matched by Kathy Burke's bawdy Maggie, Brid Brennan's secretive Agnes, Sophie Thompson's slow-witted Rose and Catherine McCormack's bold Christina, who never married the father of her son. It's the mysterious return of brother Jack (Michael Gambon) from the African missions that spurs a family crisis. The movie is no more than a delicate whisper as each sister reveals her grieving heart, but it's no less extraordinary for that.