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Dancing at Lughnasa [Import]

Meryl Streep , Michael Gambon , Pat O'Connor    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   VHS Tape
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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This affecting, bittersweet tale--adapted from BrianFriel's semi-autobiographical Tony Award-winning play--examines the emotional lives of the five unmarried Mundy sisters in 1936 rural Ireland. In their mutual care is 8-year-old Michael (sweetly understated Darrell Johnston), the illegitimate son of youngest sister Christina (Braveheart's Catherine McCormack). A voice-over from the adult Michael recalls that significant summer, in the month of August, during the feast of Lughnasa. The bolder town folk dance around a fire to Lugh, an ancient god of light. Yes, this is fiercely Roman Catholic Ireland and Lugh a pagan god but that irony is at the core of the film: the hypocrisy of tradition. The dramatic change in the richly metaphoric movie comes with the arrival of two men: eldest sibling--and only Mundy brother--Jack (Michael Gambon), a priest returning from many years in Africa, now addled, and Christine's long-absent lover and Michael's father, the charmingly flighty Gerry (Rhys Ifans). Beautiful music and excellent performances highlight the film, which also features gorgeous cinematography of the Irish countryside. Meryl Streep is stern eldest sister Kate; Kathy Burke is lively Maggie; Brid Brennan (who appeared in the stage play) is thoughtful caretaker Agnes; and Sophie Thompson is simple sweet Rose. It's a quiet film but one filled with ironic and haunting meaning. Dancing at Lughnasa was directed by Circle of Friends Pat O'Connor. --N.F. Mendoza

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars dancing at LUghnasa Jan. 1 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I saw the play and wanted to see the movie. Watched it with 5 friends and all loved it. I recommend it highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Irish summer April 9 2004
Format:VHS Tape
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet film, and hauntingly lovely Jan. 15 2004
Dancing at Lughnasa, a movie adapted from an autobiography, delves into the lives of five women, unmarried sisters living in rural Ireland in the 30s. The youngest sister has given birth to an illegitimate son, and at the beginning of the movie Michael, the little boy, is 8 year old. There's a pagan ritual that the village observes every August, a night when they dance around a fire in honor of the god Lugh, the ancient god of light. But wait? Aren't these villagers good Catholics? It's Ireland, after all. The answer is yes...at least, sort of.
Tensions increase with the arrival of 2 men. One is the only brother in this family, an elderly priest returning from missionary work in Africa, where he apparently slowly lost his mind. The other is Gerry (Rhys Ifans), Michael's long-absent father who's still not about to commit to much of anything. Meryl Streep plays the eldest sister, often a shrew, but always riveting.
It's a good one, augmented with gorgeous music and stunning cinematography of the incomparable Irish countryside.
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God, what a disappointment! I am a huge fan of both Meryl Streep and Michael Gambon, and I know Brian Friel has written some wonderful plays and screenplays -- so I couldn't believe what a dismal bore this turned out to be. As other reviewers have said, practically NOTHING happens, except that these five lonely, pathetic, spinster sisters sit around and bicker at each other. Streep's character is a priggish, joyless nag who makes her sisters even more depressed than they already have reason to be. At times the film seems to be building up to some climactic event (somebody will die or get knocked up), but then... nothing. And the sisters' big, exuberant dance scene near the end seemed totally fake and tacked-on to me -- I suspect they included that just so they could put it in the movie's trailer!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Waiting To Dance Oct. 13 2002
Not having seen the play, I seem to be at a tremendous disadvantage to appreciate this film. It seems like anything so strongly rooted in Celtic traditions, pagan and Catholic, should be spectacular. I kept waiting for something to happen....it certainly is always getting ready to happen, but the script never triggers that flood of Irish Green emotion that it always so close to the surface of all good Irish literature and art.
About the only redeeming characters are the brother Priest, who has managed to let his addled head be converted to the great heart-of-Africa primitivistic traditions (with the great scripting from the play which allow his missionary stories to parallel their Celtic neighbours' Lugan festival fires burning on the nearby ridges at night). What a great story line to let his fumbling spirit be drawn to the only time and place when he could actually rescue his simple sister. This is the great moment. I only wish the film had been able to convert what seemed to be the other dozens of latent moments waiting to sail off into my memory of the story. Alas, it was not to be.
I am now hoping the play runs again somewhere so I can catch it. I would love to see somebody else take a shot at making this one work on the big screen....it's just there, waiting patiently for a young director to re-discover it 20 years from now and make the great film that is really in there!
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great film..... June 18 2001
My husband and I saw DANCING AT LUGHNASA at the Kreeger Theatre here in Washington DC, and it was magical. The little white cottage on the stage glowed in the dark under a full moon. I wanted to see the film because I had seen the play and loved it. As the mother of two thespians and the friend of a Tony winner, I am forever interested in the translation of a stage play to the screen. I think the producer Noel Pearson (MY LEFT FOOT), the screen writer Frank McGuinness (Tony winner), and director Pat O'Conner (CIRCLE OF FRIENDS) have created a wonderful movie adaptation of Brian Friel's play. I don't expect a screen play to mimic a "staged" play, but if you're familiar with the stage play and you expect the film to be identical, you may be disappointd. I think a screen play is simply another artistic expression.
The tale told in DANCING AT LUGHNASA is magical and realistic and sad and could be interpreted as "anti-Catholic" by some, but perhaps it isn't anti-catholic as much as its inclusive of other points of view. The five Mundy sisters, their son and nephew, and priest brother returned from missionary work in Africa, as well as Christina's errant lover (father of Michael) live life on the edge. Yet inspite of their poverty, want and worry, they all find love and beauty this one magical summer when Michael's father comes for a short visit before departing to fight the church in Franco's Spain, and the Mundy brother (Michael Gambon) returns from Africa--where the natives have converted him to their religion instead of vice versa.
It's coming up on August, the month of Lugh the old Celtic God of Light. The "pagans" light bonfires on the hills to celebrate Lugh. The Mundy brother speaks of the rising of the White Goddess into heaven.
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