Writer Seamus Moran’s instincts for narrative are fine-tuned in this middle-aged romance, which is dressed in glitter and wears a Stetson.
Twice-divorced American southerner Dolly meets Irish widower Mick at the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival. Dolly’s brash southern manner overcomes Mick’s Irish reticence and, after a patient courtship, they fall in love. Dolly, a professional singer, lures Mick, who has a decent voice, up to the stage, and together they form a tribute act to Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
Word spreads and they get gigs in pubs and clubs around Ireland. We first meet them wearily driving home from a session, and it is clear something is amiss in paradise. The story of their romance is told in flashback.
Sinéad Murphy is a winning Dolly, and it’s not just her red jacket that glitters. Moran himself plays Mick in a low key. There is excellent chemistry between them. Murphy has a super voice and plays keyboards; Moran plays guitar and his voice has a warming charm. The songs along the way, country and western favourites such as Lay the Blanket on the Ground and Islands in the Stream, all land neatly.
The writing is a mixture between narration and dialogue, smoothly handled by director Patrick Joseph Byrnes for Heartfelt Productions. Key emotional moments are perfectly judged. The narrative moves between events and locations over the few years the couple have been together, and the actors slip elegantly into a variety of cameo parts to flesh out the scenes: their adult children, some pals, various functionaries. An utterly credible air of ordinary intimacy emerges. Mick, whose life was empty after the death of his wife, starts to value the cabaret act more than the romance and bickering starts. These people are real, their dilemma deeply felt.
There is a lot to enjoy here but another layer of depth would have been welcome. Moran the writer shies from conflict. Neither character has any darkness and Mick doesn’t even manage to be properly vain. So while this offers a poignant portrait of mature romance, the story has the gentle cadences of ordinary life, rather than the fireworks of affective drama.