sat 21/09/2019

My Mother and Other Strangers, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

My Mother and Other Strangers, BBC One

My Mother and Other Strangers, BBC One

Hattie Morahan charms in cockle-warming wartime drama set in Northern Ireland

Tennyson fans: Hattie Morahan and Aaron Staton in 'My Mother and Other Strangers'

This new wartime drama launched on Remembrance Sunday is a curio. The setting of My Mother and Other Strangers is rural Northern Ireland in 1943, where it’s green and wet and a long way from the conflict. Into the midst of the fictional Moybeg on the shore of a lough a squadron of bombers from the USAF has been introduced. Their planes careen across the cloudy skies of a farming community where previously the loudest noises would have been the mooing of heifers in labour, while their pilots swarm into the pub and the fleapit. So they’re the strangers of the title.

The mother is Mrs Rose Coyne (Hattie Morahan), a well-educated Englishwoman who for reasons as yet unrevealed finds herself married to the publican, running the village shop and bringing up two children a long way from whence she came. Her husband Michael’s rugged good looks were presumably the lure. It’s pretty clear from this opening episode that those good looks may not be enough to keep a loving marriage afloat. It looked to be holed below the waterline the moment a polite liaison officer Captain Dreyfuss (Aaron Staton, formerly of Mad Men) from the air base knocked on her door and started quoting Tennyson at her. “Gosh, bit of a favourite of mine, that one,” she said, her eyes greedily widening as if ther shimmer of an oasis on the desert horizon.

The first storyline served notice of the kind of reception an airman might expect if he makes eyes at the home-reared lassies. Coyne ((Owen McDonnell, pictured above) had the grimmest of tantrums when his 16-year-old daughter Emma (Corey Cott) caught the fancy of a respectful young airman. The local men who regard her as local property, led by Des McAleer's growly old bruiser, might have put the boy in traction had not Rose aimed a shotgun at the boy’s assailants. So Lady of Shalott fan is plucky too.

My Mother and Other Strangers lands in the slot vacated by Poldark offering some of the same pleasures: wind and water, and the fertile fields of yesteryear. In the style of Call the Midwife each episode is topped and tailed by a nostalgic voiceover from Rose’s now grown-up son Francis (Ciarán Hinds at his most honeyed; he's played by Michael Nevin as a wargaming young scamp). Whether it has enough of its own individual personality to enthrall a large Sunday-night audience remains to be seen. The setting in Country Antrim is certainly a novel reboot of the familiar narrative of GIs billeted on not always grateful Brits. Barry Devlin wrote the drama specifically for Morahan, who repays his faith by exuding period authenticity and restrained charm. "My mother dwelt in Moybeg," concluded Francis, "but she didn’t live there." For all the glamorous distraction of swaggering Yanks smoking Lucky Strikes, the story of her status as an English outsider has the greater potential to intrigue. 


Pity about some errors. There was a blackout on 1943 and the USAAF did not operate over Germany at night

The first mistake I noticed too was the absence of a blackout. Quite a big mistake I reckon.

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