Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. Ireland/United Kingdom/USA, 1998. Bórd Scannán na hÉireann, Capitol Films, Channel Four Films, Ferndale Films, Irish Film Board, Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Sony Pictures Classics. Screenplay by Frank McGuinness, based on the play by Brian Friel. Cinematography by Kenneth MacMillan. Produced by Noel Pearson. Music by Bill Whelan. Production Design by Mark Geraghty. Costume Design by Joan Bergin. Film Editing by Humphrey Dixon. National Board of Review Awards 1998. Toronto International Film Festival 1998.
Brian Friel’s stageplay about a family of five Irish sisters living in Donegal comes to the screen with a lot of love but not much purpose. Let yourself get carried away with the excellent performances or wonderful music or maybe just the beautiful scenery, and you’ll have a good enough time without having to notice that the story is too undetectable for its own good. The modern world of industrialization enters a sleepy little village that these women live in without anyone realizing it until it is too late to stop the changes it brings. Meryl Streep is brilliant as the eldest and sternest sister, who makes sure to keep sisters Catherine McCormack, Kathy Burke, Sophie Thompson (Emma’s sister) and Brid Brennan (who won a Tony award for the same role on stage) in line as they explore the scary worlds of men, industry and pagan rituals (i.e. the celebration of the title). Michael Gambon is also wonderful as their missionary brother who has returned from his work in Africa a senile old man.