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Ruth Connaughton Reviews My Mother and Other Strangers

ByRuth Connaughton

Nov 22, 2016

As soon as I heard the Northern Irish accents I knew I would be a fan of this show, and I was not wrong. Set in the idyllic fictional town of Moybeg, My Mother and Other Strangers tells the story of a peaceful, tight-knit community that is suddenly transformed into an airbase for American soldiers during the Second World War in 1942.

The Coyne family find themselves right at the heart of this, and their experience is told in a wistful from-a-few-years-later narration by the young son, Francis, played by Martin Nevin. The first instance that threatens to shake their little family is the interest that the charming liaison officer, Captain Dreyfus, appears to show to the mother of the family, Rose.

Hattie Morahan’s performance in this role is one of the notable highlights of the show. She plays her character in such a way that is the perfect balance between a sweet and comforting mother but without it being too cheesy, which makes the audience instantly warm to her.

Another impressive performance is by Corey Cott in his portrayal of a young American lieutenant, Frank Barnhill. Frank takes the daughter of the family, 16-year-old Emma (Eileen O’Higgins) on a date to the cinema, much to the horror of her father Michael (Owen McDonnell) who proceeds to aggressively threaten him never to go near her again. While this is a scene that has the potential to be melodramatic and cliché, these two actors are both so skilled that the viewer is left on the edge of their seat wondering what is going to happen next (Frank drives off and Michael looks stern for a while).

I did feel, however, that O’Higgins’ portrayal of Emma could have been slightly better. There are some scenes, such as when she is getting ready for her date, in which her lines come across as staged and false, which brings you back to the realisation that you are watching actors working from scripts. This is disappointing, especially in comparison to how realistic the others appear. However, this is also a result of Barry Devlin’s writing. Although the majority of the script is excellent, there are scenes that let it down slightly.

Possibly my favourite aspect of this show, other than the hilarious little facial expressions which Francis Coyne makes, is the spectacular setting. It is mostly filmed in Stangford Lough, which is the ideal backdrop for this story, and you may genuinely want to live the rest of your life in Ireland in the 1940s after watching this.

Overall, this show could not be more typically BBC, and therefore makes for some wonderful cosy Sunday viewing.

Image: US Archives @ Wiki Commons

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