Review: My Mother and Other Strangers – Episode 4

December 11, 2016

First of all, apologies for the absence of a review for episode 3 of My Mother and Other Strangers. Struck down by an office plague, by the time I was recovered we were onto the next episode. Although, let’s be honest, was there much to say about the third episode? Everything has been leading up to this one, it seems, and we finally got a bit of that romance that we’d been promised. I’m not bitter, but I’d just like to point out that it took us 3 hours and 45 minutes to get there. Poldark has spoiled me.

So episode 4 started with the arrival of Rose’s sister Vera (Fiona Button), the younger carefree sister with a troubled past. Michael Coyne, being the fun-sponge that he is, instantly become even more cranky than usual and found a new occupation of hanging around disapprovingly as Vera makes quite an impression at his pub. Rose meanwhile, is still coming to terms with her infatuation with the lovely Captain Dreyfuss, and is forced to confront it when her sister decides he might be a good target for her own flirting skills.

This episode felt markedly different from the rest of the series so far, not least because the director appears to have had a change of heart about the style. The number of wide angle closeups on faces was a jarring change from a series that had been pedestrian in filming style up until then. Initially it felt claustrophobic – after a while, it felt a bit indulgent. This is a fairly standard drama, so any changes in approach to filming are going to look really, really obvious.

There was also a very strange scene in which Rose desperately described how Captain Dreyfuss reminded her of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff, ‘brooding and dangerous’. I have several points to make about this but first I’d like to point out the main characteristics of both Heathcliff and Dreyfuss. Heathcliff is:

  • Borderline psychotic
  • Obsessed with one woman to the point of being dangerous
  • Manipulative and abusive

Captain Dreyfuss, on the other hand:

  • Sweetly gave Rose a book he thought she’d like
  • Has been polite and quiet to a fault
  • Looks polished and handsome at all times

Has Barry Devlin actually read Emily Bronte’s novel or did he just google ‘Byronic heroes’? If anyone slightly fits the Heathcliff description, it’s Michael, who in one scene that I think was meant to be romantic, said: ‘I look at Vera and I see the kind of exotic creature you might’ve been’. Rose seemed to come round at the end (miraculously) but that’s a mean thing to say, something Heathcliff would’ve loved to say to Isabella Linton when he was at his worst.

I think this disappointed me most because there are a multitude of kind heroes out there and Barry Devlin picked the one that’s least heroic as a comparison. If this series ends with Rose and Dreyfuss running off together, I sure hope she isn’t too disappointed when she realises he isn’t the wild character she sees him as. Personally, I think he’s wonderful as he is, if a bit weak-willed.

In the end however, we got our kiss, so the promised romance finally appeared. In similarly good news, the next episode does genuinely look busy for the first time, so it could make for a compelling end to a series that hasn’t pushed itself in the slightest. When I think back to the premise – of dashing American soldiers making an impression on a small Irish village – I feel severely mislead. What a missed opportunity. One more to go, all hopes are pinned.

More about Jen Scouler

Jen Scouler is a magazine journalist, film critic and the founder of Lost In Drama. With degrees in both English Literature and Digital Journalism, she has experience of writing for popular print and online publications. Jen is also devoted to her metaphorical novelist aunties - Aunt Jane, Charlotte and Jo are particular favourites - and is usually found with an Earl Grey tea in hand.

    1. Maybe I’m missing something, but I believe Rose was explaining she fell in love with her HUSBAND because HE reminded her of Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff.

    1. Yes, I think that is right. (I just watched the episode this weekend.) She did follow it up by saying that she saw in Dreyfuss the parts of Heathcliffe that Michael actually doesn’t possess. There is a disconnect here, as while Michael is somewhat Heathcliff-ish, Dreyfuss is not at all. Later references to Emily Bronte in Episode 5 would indicate a fascination with Wuthering Heights on Rose’s part that is not supported by the script.

    1. Yes, I agree the idea of the captain, having similar traits as Heathcliff is apsurd. There were many British and American novels, movies with similar themes. I thought of “Bridges of Madison County”, “Emma” & Sense and sensibility and pride and prejudice(Mr. Darcy).

Speak your mind, dear reader.

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