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Peter Del Monte
If there is something dream-like and exotic about soap-operas, this is almost cinema-verite. The hard working agricultural souls of the fictional (yet oh so familiar, Leestown) are brilliantly brought to life in this long running series. Enjoying considerable cult status for the early thespian work of Gabriel Byrne, now a real film star in Hollywood, America, this is a gripping white knuckle ride of a drama. The antics of Batty Brennan and the long suffering Riordan family are almost Joycean in their serpentine connections. The bug bear of religion in Irish society is dealt with in a sympathetic and daring manner. The twin themes of the seasons passing and time moving on in the village, somehow purer than the world beyond are reminiscent of the works of Coppola, Wenders and Woody Allen, before he went weird. The stellar acting skills of Tom Hickey will be familiar to anyone who witnesed his tour de force role as Father Seamus in Nuns on the Run, and his scene stealing work in the Butcher Boy. His portrayal of Benjy Riordan is one of the more mythic explorations of the struggle of the Irish man to step out of the shadows of his domineering mother (Mrs Riordan) with literary echoes in 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.' The on-screen tension between Moira Deady as his mother is palpable, and there is an unresolved ongoing feud that builds brilliantly. The constant use of the line 'Ahhh Benjy" had a particular resonance from a mother fast giving up hope. Moira Deady was also acclaimed in her part in the movie version of 'Angela's Ashes'. Nor was The Riordans a mere springboard to greater things for many concerned, it was a fully realized series and an important step towards the Irish entertainment industry finding a voice of its own.
A must-see, for anyone who cares about Ireland, or just great telly in general.
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