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Dancing At Lughnasa

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Two-time Academy Award(r)-winner Meryl Streep stars in this beautifully crafted ensemble drama from director Pat O'Connor (Circle of Friends) adapted from the internationally acclaimed play by Brian Friel. Rural Ireland, 1936. It's a pivotal time for the five unmarried Mundy sisters. Europe is on thebrink of war, their small village is on the verge of incredible change and the sisters have troubles of their own. The head of the household is the imperious, eldest sister Kate (Meryl Streep), barely holding the family together with income from her teaching job. Her sisters, saintly caretaker Agnes (Brid Brennan); the simple-minded Rose (Sophie Thompson); earthy Maggie (Kathy Burke) and the romantic Christine (Catherine McCormack) all do piecework and odd jobs to support themselves and Christine's beloved illegitimate young son Michael. Into their lives come two men who threaten to disrupt this delicate family union: Michael's errant father Gerry (Rhys Ifans) and the sisters' brother (Mich


This affecting, bittersweet tale--adapted from Brian Friel'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 townfolk 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. Directed by Pat O'Connor (Circle of Friends). --N.F. Mendoza

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Meryl Streep, Michael Gambon, Gerard McSorley, Catherine McCormack, Kathy Burke
  • Directors: Pat O'Connor
  • Writers: Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, William Butler Yeats
  • Producers: Gerrit V. Folsom, Jane Barclay, Noel Pearson, Rod Stoneman
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 15, 1999
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000F3FS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,311 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Dancing At Lughnasa" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

This movie more than met my expectations.
Marilyn A. McAllister
It not only portrays the relationships of women in an Irish family but also how the values and morays of Irish culture dictate the lives of the Irish people.
Constance G. Recker
One of Meryl Streep's best and enjoyed "meeting" the other actresses and actors, as well.
Donna C. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 15, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Directed by Pat O'Connor and exquisitely filmed (by Kenneth MacMillan) in the countryside of Donegal, this ensemble drama is adapted from the stage play by Brian Friel. Screenwriter Frank McGuinness sticks close to the dialogue of the play but opens up the rural cottage setting to include brief scenes of the town of Ballybeg, the stunning and untamed countryside, and the pagan harvest celebration, the Feast of Lughnasa. Set in 1936, the film focuses on the difficult lives of five unmarried sisters and an eight-year-old love child, when Ireland was on the verge of World War II and industrialization. The film stresses character and theme, rather than plot, highlighting the relationships among the sisters as they cope with the arrival of their brother, a priest returning from Uganda after twenty-five years, and the summer-long visit of Gerry Evans, father of Christina's child, Michael.

Kate (Meryl Streep), the sister who is "in charge," is the only real wage earner in the family. Rigid, severe, and lacking in humor, she believes pagan celebrations, such as the Feast of Lughnasa, which still provide fun and enjoyment in the countryside, are "uncivilized." Her priest brother (sensitively played by Michael Gambon), however, is now virtually a pagan himself. Though he is clearly unbalanced, he has learned the need of the poor for happiness, dancing, and community celebration, even if it is not church-sanctioned.

The other Mundy sisters help illustrate the chasm between Kate's attitudes and those of Fr. Jack. Maggie (Kathy Burke), the fun-loving, free-spirited, and most humorous of the sisters, constantly bursts into singing and dancing. Christina has fun during the summer with lover Gerry Evans but feels no need to marry him.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Kona VINE VOICE on 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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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 4, 2006
Format: DVD
Given the luxury of owning films via DVD collections offers the opportunity to revisit at will the works the viewer found worthy of purchase. Such is the case with the luminous 'Dancing at Lughnasa', a 1998 release by director Pat O'Connor to the tunes of a lilting screenplay by Frank McGuinness based on Brian Friel's 1990 play of the same name. Though low key and not a popular hit at the boxoffice, this is one of those rare films that combines a very simple tale about common folks brought to life by a cast of extraordinary actors.

The story is set in Donnegal, Ireland in 1936 (just before WW II)choked the world) and simply relates the life of a family of five single sisters and the love child of one of them. The action is spare, centering on the visit of their brother home from the missionary work in Uganda inalterably changed from the experience, on the loss of job of the supporting eldest sister, and the return of the errant father of the love child for the summer, and other daily challenges. The stresses and strains these small events play on the sisters is eventually climaxed in the dancing festival that marks the Feast of Lughnasa (a persistent pagan celebration that challenges the very Catholic foundation of the Irish community), a compelling event that parallels the returned priest brother from the mission fields where he has gained insight into the desperate need for community, happiness, dancing and celebration as the essential needs of humankind.

The cast is flawless: Meryl Streep is superb as the elder sister bitterly bound to holding the family together at all costs, Catherine McCormack as the mother of the lovechild, Kathy Burke, Sophie Thompson and Brid Brennan; Michael Gambon as the deranged returned brother; and Rhys Ifans as the errant father of the child.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By India Russell on December 14, 2007
Format: DVD
"Dancing at Lughnasa" meanders winningly through a summer in 1936 in Donnegal, Ireland. It's a child's memory of the summer -- with four aunts, an uncle, his unmarried mother,a free spirit father and, always present, the magnificent green countryside of Ireland. A countryside so beautiful that one can hardly believe that suffering could take place there. Still,as the summer slowly unfolds, the viewer takes in the real complexities of the family's life, with worries about food and money and work and love and loneliness and the future. This is not a "message" movie,however. No preaching, thank you very much. The child's story is allowed blossom and speak for itself. And along with the suffering, there are glowing moments of clear pure joy that point the way to what life is really all about.
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