This is a tedious tale of five unmarried sisters living in Donegal, Ireland during one particular summer in 1936. The story is told from the perspective of Michael, the young son of Christina’s. The other sisters are Rose, Maggie, Agnes and the eldest, Kate, played by Meryl Streep.
One day, Gerry Evans, the boy’s wandering father makes an appearance and from the voice over we learn that this was the summer that changed Michael’s life. It’s also the summer that his uncle Jack, a priest, returns from missionary work in Africa where Pagan rituals have been his lifeblood for many long years now. He also suffers from what we are lead to believe is malaria (I think) so you can expect some rather strange dialogue.
None of the characters are compelling, nor is the story for that matter. The sisters are somewhat all miserable, except for Kate, who is super miserable and takes great pleasure in making everyone else even more miserable than they are already. She’s such a stick-in-the-mud, in fact, that you’d like to drown her in the peat moss.
Gerry is there for only a short time, to spark Christina’s interest and then to run off and fight for democracy in Spain against Franco. Everyone thinks he’s crazy except for Jack who’s crazy himself so his opinion doesn’t count.
The underlying theme is dancing. The women (except for Kate), like music and like to dance. Kate’s against everything, but she does go in for a jig near the end where we’re supposed to take pleasure in the unleashing of their spirits as they dance up a storm just outside their front door where Gerry thinks they’ve lost their minds.
“Dancing at Lughnasa” is a play originally. I don’t know how well it did on stage but on film it’s a big drag. My guess is that since plays are made to be performed, it might have been a dud there too. It should have been a novel and then the author could have taken more time developing the story. Not much of one here. Oh well. Lotta says not even Meryl Streep could pull this one out of the bog.