As the series begins, we hear Francis (Ciaran Hinds) speaking about letters he recently found. The letters were written from his mother to his sister. The narrator goes on to explain that the letters got him thinking about the summer of 1943 and that period of his life. We jump to Moybeg on the shores of Lough Neagh. We see young Francis (Michael Nevin) and his pal Seamie (Isaac Heslip) playing like normal kids. An airplane flies over head. The same plane flies over Francis’ mother, Rose (Hattie Morahan). Francis and his pal are mesmerized by the plane. Meanwhile, Rose runs the local store. She sells a few items to Davey (Seamus O’Hara) and Ned Hanlon (Des McAleer). Francis’ sister, Emma (Eileen O’Higgins) and her father, Michael (Owen McDonnell), visits the library. Emma leaves with a bunch of books.
Francis and Seamie speak about the planes. Seamie reveals he has been digging through the dump to find toys. Francis begins his journey home and hides his fake guns, while Seamie heads for the dump. On the way home, Francis gets picked up by a few American soldiers. They recognize him from the local bar. Lieutenant Barnhill (Corey Cott) and his pals prepare to hit the bar. Barnhill notices Emma and seems to take a liking to the girl. The family enjoys dinner together later that night. During the meal, Rose gives Michael a grammar lesson. Michael finds an excuse to leave. Seconds later, we’re introduced to Barney Quinn (Gavin Drea) at a local dance. Barney tries to ask Emma to dance, but she turns down the offer. Barnhill, Wilson (Ross Anderson), and Noches (Aldo Uribe) enter the building. Everyone stops and looks their way.
The American soldiers have an awkward and slightly hostile encounter with Ned and Davey Hanlon outside. In the morning, Rose runs into Captain Ronald Dreyfuss (Aaron Staton). Ronald makes a comment about the beauty of the land. Rose seems infatuated with the man. Barney watches as Barnhill picks up Emma and her brother. He drives them down to the beach. Barnhill invites Emma out to the movies. She doesn’t give an answer at the time. Barnhill also gives Emma a present, which she doesn’t open. Dreyfuss visits Rose at the store and formally introduces himself. He explains that he has been put in charge of creating harmony between the Americans and the locals. Emma and Francis meet with Failey (Kerr Logan) and purchase a bag of his eels. When they return home, Barney asks Emma if she got a ride from the American. He doesn’t seem happy, but she denies it.
Back at the bar, Francis is introduced to Battle Fatigue (Sam Lucas Smith). Also, the locals try to harass the American soldiers once again. The men discuss their losses, before Francis departs. Francis finds Emma smelling of the present in her room. Francis tells her about Battle Fatigue. He also reveals that Barnhill was at the bar and drunk a lot of beers. In the morning, Barnhill visits Emma’s house. Barnhill requests to speak with Michael. He asks for permission to go on a date with Emma. Michael is not happy. Michael explains that his daughter is 16 and still in school. Barnhill reveals that he isn’t much older. Barnhill leaves. Rose ventures up the hill once again in the morning. She finds a strange coin on the ground. Meanwhile, Barney’s sister Maisie (Sophie Mellotte) shows Barney a piece of jewelry she found at the dump. Maisie suggests Barney could give it to Emma.
Meanwhile, Emma prepares to go to the movies with Barnhill. She pleads with Francis to keep it a secret from her parents. Barney watches as Barnhill’s vehicle passes by. At the theater, Emma begins to feel like everyone is laughing at them. She rushes out and demands to be taken home. Barnhill doesn’t put up any resistance. Once they arrive home, Emma admits she will kiss him now that the other girls aren’t looking. She does and Barnhill immediately realizes that Emma is indeed a young kid. She tells him to show her how it is done then. Francis watches through the window as Michael confronts Barnhill. Michael tries to get violent with Barnhill, but the American keeps things calm. Michael backs off when he is warned.
Davey emerges and tells Michael that it is a nice night. Later, Francis runs into Barnhill. He is offered a ride, but he turns it down. Barnhill tells the boy that Wilson has been dispatched and he is likely next. He also explains that the locals feel that they’re going to be untouched by the war. He suggests they may only remain that way with their help. Emma speaks with her mother about Barnhill. She also makes it clear that she doesn’t like Barney. Seconds later, Rose gets a visit from Dreyfuss. The Captain asks Rose about the situation with Barnhill. She admits Barnhill was a gentlemen and that everything has been settled. She doesn’t want him punished any further. That night, the Americans hit the bar again. Michael is hesitant to let Barnhill in.
Ned convinces Michael to let him in, when Barnhill reveals he is going to be sent to war soon enough. Once he has finished drinking, Barnhill stumbles outside. He walks towards Emma’s house, while calling her name. He is attacked by the locals and pulled in a nearby building. Emma notices and gets help. Rose grabs a gun and helps break it up. The following day, Dreyfuss visits Michael and Rose. He explains that Michael’s bar will be out of bounds for two months. He is happy to learn that Barnhill fought back well. He reveals that the boy was the current Golden Gloves camp out of Kentucky. When Michael leaves, Dreyfuss admits he thought there was a connection between Emma’s date and the attack.
The Captain also reveals that Barnhill has written a letter to Emma. He wants Rose to pass it along. Rose refuses and suggests it would put Emma in a terrible situation. She doesn’t want her daughter hanging on only for Barnhill to die in action and never return. The following day, Emma walks with her brother. Francis blames the trouble on her, but she is adamant that it wasn’t her fault. Airplanes fly by overhead. The narrator reveals that Barnhill was killed shortly after leaving town. He was killed in 1944 and buried in Belgium. Francis also wonders what his father knew at the time. He hopes his father wasn’t involved in the attack, but wouldn’t be surprised either way.
My Mother and Other Strangers Review
In the beginning, My Mother and Other Strangers felt a little empty. During the first twenty or thirty minutes, I felt like something was missing. As it carried on, the pieces began to fall into place. Emma experienced her first romantic encounter. Unfortunately and expectedly, it quickly went awry. Her father refused to allow her to date an American. Due to his persistence, Barnhill was eventually attacked by the locals. It was Rose that saved the day. She also protected her daughter from further heartbreak in the end, by concealing the letter.
Rose seems to want more than Michael has to offer. That leads me to believe she may have a future fling with Ronald Dreyfuss. The series is a little predictable and cliché. Nevertheless, it was a good package as a whole. I enjoyed the opener, despite a few flaws here and there. A 7 out of 10 is deserved.