Dancing At Lughnasa
**.5 GM
Starring: Meryl Streep, Catherine McCormack, Rhys Ifans, Kathy Burke, Michael Gambon, Brid Brennan, Sophie Thompson


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As I settled in to screen this low-key drama about five sisters struggling to keep a home together in 1930s Ireland, people around me were taking bets as to how soon Meryl Streep would start crying. These are movie critics, folks. Keep your salt handy.

"Dancing At Lughnasa" is a tale of the Mundy sisters inevitably growing apart while desperately working to stay together. Agnes (Brid Brennan) is desperate to leave her life of thankless work behind, Rose (Sophie Thompson) wants the freedom to date a married man, Christina (Catherine McCormack) has a son and longs for his rogue father (Rhys Ifans) to stay with them at last, Maggie (Kathy Burke) laments the loss of their carefree youth and Kate (Meryl Streep) struggles to keep everyone happy and together despite her stern demeanor. Factor in the return of the oldest brother Jack (Michael Gambon) from Church service in Africa and descending slowly into senility, and the fall of the House of Mundy is assured.

It's an interesting film that unfolds slowly, showcasing the breathtaking Ireland countryside and the many hardships suffered by these hard-working single women as they each try to overcome their own personal problems for the sake of the family. The focus is mainly on Streep as she begins to realize that she's been a 'righteous bitch' for far too long, but isn't quite able to completely put her long-held attitudes aside in time to save the house from disintegrating in front of her.

Keep in mind, though, that it isn't wise to read comic books just before watching a slow-paced drama like this. It's a hard mental shift to make.

McCormack is also radiant as Christina, the one Mundy sister that really gets to release some of her passion with a man who is actually worth her affections, the father of little Michael, her love child that was taken in and raised by all the sisters of the house. Of course, once a couple of men show up, everything goes to hell in a handbasket, and the sisters realize that they love each other and can dance freely with each other, but once the dancing stops, they simply do not feel they belong together anymore. Not that being apart holds any greater riches for them, though.

I haven't seen the play, so I can't compare the two works, but this one was touching, although not nearly quite as involving - for me, at least - as it could have been. Check it out for yourself, though. It's worth seeing.

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