Movie Magazine International

Dancing at Lughnasa

USA - 1998

Movie Review By Blue Velvet

After finally winning the right to adapt the internationally acclaimed play "Dancing at Lughansa," to the screen, Director Patrick O'Conner put screenwriter, Frank McGuinness, to the writing task. Despite the strength and beauty of Brian Friel's original play about five close-knit unmarried sisters, the film "Dancing at Lughansa" lacks the emotional rapport that makes its theatre characters so engaging. Even with its outstanding cast, the film only fractionally does justice to the story's bittersweet drama.

Lughnasa is an Irish summer festival in honor of the harvest god, Lugh. A man narrates the film, taking us back to his life as a young boy in Donegal Ireland during the Lughansa of 1936. Raised in a remote country abode by his unmarried mother and her four middle-aged sisters, the young boy recalls his family's strength and vulnerabilities during that summer when sudden events subverted all their lives.

Despite the cast's notorious acting capabilities, O'Conner's direction undercuts each performer's command. From the convincing portrayals by Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, and Catherine McCormick to the wonderful natural performances of Kathy Burke and Brid Brennan, Director O'Conner herds the characters into a collective of disjoint scenes. Clumsily throwing the characters' diverse personalities intoawkward vacuous spaces, O'Conner makes his characters emotionally repellent. Screenwriter McGuiness's very unsubtle and barren dialogue doesn't help either. Lost in a jumble of quick highs and lows, the film bounces around jaggedly, rifling through the story which is so rich with strife, spirit, and joy.

"Dancing at Lughnasa" does achieve a stunning visual triumph. Director O'Conner masterly captures the characters' moods through fantastic scenery. Anyone familiar with Ireland or its harvest celebrations stands to melt over the film's landscapes and its eye for traditions. Yet this visual charm can't counterbalance O'Conner's haphazard direction and it's difficult to grasp any dramatic richness from this film.

© 1999 - Blue Velvet - Air Date: 12/23/98

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