Monday, November 9, 2009
Movie Challenge Review: Dancing in Lughnasa
Who doesn't love Meryl Streep? Okay, now that I've said that, those people will all step forward. Well, it just so happens that I love Meryl Streep's versatility, and really fell in love with her acting ability when I saw her in Mama Mia one summer, and then that next year in the critically acclaimed Doubt. These two parts couldn't have been more different in character and style, yet Streep played them both with amazing sincerity and heart. In Dancing in Lughnasa, I can say that once again Streep wowed me by her versatility.
Synopsis: Adapted from a Tony Award wining stage play by Brian Friel, Dancing at Lughnasa is mainly a character story. We are introduced to five unmarried sisters, the youngest of which has an eight year old son from a relationship with a man who occasionally comes back into their lives. Streep plays the eldest sister, and a teacher at the local school in 1936, rural Ireland. Scenes of the countryside with its animals and turf cutting seem to play another character in the film, reminding us of the repressed ideals and expectations of those that lived there.
We come to learn that the sisters each have their own back story, some of love lost, but each with a grown up ideal of doing what is right, as led by their eldest sister. With the return of their clergyman brother from Africa, the sisters discover that their brother has turned pagan in his actions and behaviors, and seems unwell mentally. Now the town not only is disconcerted by this household of unmarried women and child born out of wedlock, but now they must also deal with a brother who is anything but the ideal clergyman.
Review: While not the cheeriest film, nor plot driven, the movie was engaging and well acted. I found the array of characters and their behaviors to be fascinating, and helped you to get a feel for why they had made the choices that they had, and how that led to who they were at present. Although the play builds on itself, much of the action is based on the interrelationships between characters and how they will react to the circumstances thrown in their way. Now I realize that most films deal with relationship stories, but this one felt almost like a Tennessee Williams style of play writing, in that it was heavy on character relations, and less on locations and actions.
I did enjoy this film. If you are looking for a storyline that contains classic plot points, this movie might not quite fit the bill, but it does deal heavily with the complicated, inner relationships between a family, and how they learn to work together. This won't be the first film I run to for an escape, but I thought the concept and family interesting, and Meryl Streep more than convincing in her role.
This film review fulfills my 5th of 12 time period dramas for the Period Drama Challenge.
For more information on the film, see: Dancing at Lughnasa.