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In the last few weeks, R ratings have ruled the video shelves, leaving parents little choice for younger family members. Dancing At Lughnasa is more likely to induce sleep in children than violent actions, but if you're determined to bring home a new release that's not rated R, there is little else to choose from. (This in itself is a sad reflection on the media's attitude towards families.)
Certainly, Dancing At Lughnasa is not completely worthless. Produced and filmed in Ireland and taking place in the 1930's, it proves the point that watching six people eat dinner can be interesting if they live in a land and time that are foreign to the audience. But as we learn about the five Mundy sisters, and their brother Jack (Michael Gambon) who has recently returned from deepest darkest Africa where he served as a Catholic missionary for serval decades, we keep expecting something to happen that will bring this story to the boiling point.
Perhaps it will be when 8 year old Michael (Darrell Johnston), the illegitimate son of sister Christina (Catherine McCormack), asks where his father is. Or when Christina discovers his father Gerry (Rhys Ifans) has returned after an 18 month absence. Although Christina is anxious to begin the relationship again, not all her sisters agree with her actions. Or the pot could begin bubbling when Jack starts to reenact the "pagan" rituals of the African tribes he has spent so much time with, apparently forgetting his Catholic training. Or is the real problem beginning to brew when eldest sister Kate (Meryl Streep) loses her "secure" job as a school teacher after the local Catholic priest, who is aware of Jack's strange actions, claims that school enrollment is dropping.
Unfortunately, even with this much fuel for the fire, the plot only simmers while the large cast interacts with each other using the odd mild profanity. In the end, this is a long, slow dance, that's dying for a dip, twist, and a spin.
Dancing At Lughnasa is rated PG: for mild language and thematic elements
Cast: Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon
Studio: (pictures (c)1999 Sony Pictures Classics)