Masterpiece: My Mother and Other Strangers
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With her English accent and her London ways, Rose Coyne is the only stranger in her rural Northern Ireland town, until 4,000 Americans arrive at the nearby WWII airbase. As Rose finds herself acting as peacekeeper between the disgruntled locals and the soldiers, she is also drawn to the engaging young Captain Dreyfuss. Will Rose risk her family for this forbidden love?
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I know that this show hasn't struck a chord with everyone the way it has for me, and I believe it's because the plot is indeed somewhat slow, and (dare I say it), there's no dashing handsome man at the center, as in Poldark or Matthew Crawley. Dreyfuss here fills a somewhat different and less major role. People are also generally less interested in a middle aged woman as the lead.
That said, I wasn't looking for dashing looks or young romance. I rather think that Emma Coyne's (the 16 year old daughter) stories are unnecessary and a detraction. Many factors drew me to this show: the gorgeous Northern Ireland scenery, the time period, the glorious, glorious nostalgia only furthered by future Francis's narration, and of course... Rose (Hattie Morahan). Simply everything about her. How she's a stranger in her own place, how she is brave enough to stand for justice, and how she is alive to poetry...
Even better is the fact that when Michael (her husband) goes wrong, or we find ourselves frustrated at him for his obvious differences with his wife, we still don't hate him as he just isn't evil. He's a good man. So in this complicated love triangle we (or at least I) found myself rooting for Dreyfuss while also feeling bad for Michael. The story becomes much less shallow when there isn't a true villain (unless you wanted to count Tillie!)
As much as I loved Downton Abbey and Grantchester and co., never did I find it necessary to order the DVD. My Mother and Other Strangers, however, was a whole different story. Not only have I already watched each episode multiple times based on what's available on pbs, but I've also gone ahead and preordered the DVD--after watching just the first episode. It really was that good.
Hats off to Hattie Morahan and Barry Devlin. May there be another series!
Without spoiling things I feel I can tell you that the series takes place in Northern Ireland in the period between October and December 1943. The men in the small village of Moybeg who were of age to fight for their country have left and what remains are the older men (and the ones who failed to pass the test). The US Air Force brings in 4,000 servicemen (a number that appears on the DVD slipcase though I don’t know where that number comes from) to set up a base. The local men are not thrilled to have it there. Each episode has a distinct subject – which gets resolved (for better or worse) but the thread that goes through is a love triangle between the local pub/store owner, his English wife (played exceptionally well by Hattie Morahan – who I still remember from “The Bletchley Circle” series) and the American post commander. None of this is a spoiler as it occurs early on. There are other love triangles too, at various age levels.
Somewhere in Episode 5, the episode you should no nothing beforehand (except maybe this), a character uses the words “moral compass”. Those words really describe the backbone for the full series. As you watch you will understand why.
There is an ending of course, and how you feel about it will depend on your own “moral compass”.
Each episode runs 61 to 62 minutes (on the DVD) so obviously there were edits on the version which aired on PBS. There are a few expletives and some small violence but the only nudity is one shot of a topless woman from the back.
The DVD includes a “behind the scenes” featurette which is really interviews with the cast. It’s only eight minutes long but it includes probably the biggest “spoiler”, so do not watch it until after you’ve seen the film.
No, this does not rank up with some of the best of the BBC productions that appear on PBS, and there are some threads which seem to go unfinished. And there is no “season 2” planned so that can be a bit frustrating.
The main reason to watch this is Morahan’s performance
I received an advance screener from PBS Home Video in exchange for an objective review.
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.
Very well done and great story line.
Jim Hyatt, Calimesa, CA