Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film  |   Release Date - Nov 13, 1998 (USA)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Ireland , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Costello

This film version of Brian Friel's award-winning play is a few cuts below its stage source, despite superb ensemble acting. Its episodic structure makes it difficult to render cinematically. The story focuses on five sisters living together not too happily in a small Irish village, and their brother, a missionary priest just returned from Africa. Each of the sisters are given an opportunity to reveal the emotions that their threadbare lives have forced them to suppress, but, since the film combines brevity with a slow pace, the characters simply don't have enough time to make an impact. The director has tried to open up the play by shooting some exteriors, which only serves to highlight the film's essentially static nature. The excellent cast, led by Meryl Streep as the harsh schoolteacher, and Michael Gambon, as the priest, includes members of the original Abbey Theater stage production. They work small miracles here, but they can't be held responsible for the intrinsic limits of the material in this medium.