DANCING AT LUGHNASA is set in 1936 County Donegal, Ireland, where self righteous Kate Mundy (Meryl Streep), a bossy and condescending school marm, rules over her four younger adult sisters. The homecoming of brother Jack (Michael Gambon), a priest returning after 25 years of missionary service in Uganda, is a major event in their drab lives. Kate and siblings Chris (Catherine McCormack), Maggie (Kathy Burke), and Agnes (Brid Brennan) have suffered crushing poverty, having been forced to live together and care for special needs sister Rose (Sophie Thompson) in their tiny family home, as well as Chris' out-of-wedlock son, Michael. None have married and it feels as if Kate's demands of loyalty, her harsh religiosity, and her disdain for men have left them all unloved. Having risen to the priesthood, Jack is a point of pride, but he returns a broken man, perhaps malaria-ridden, seemingly converted to the religion of the Africans he now longs for. He's not always coherent, and almost childlike in demeanor. Hard physical labor takes up the women's days -- they scrub clothes on washboards, plant and dig up the potato crop, and care for Rose, the sister they refer to as "simple." When she falls for a local whose wife has left him, they worry he will take sexual advantage of her. Their "wireless" is prized, but Kate disdains dancing and music, or any real joy. Catholicism butts up against rites performed by local "pagan" Celtic denizens and that's why Kate vetoes her sisters' attendance at the local harvest dance. She also condemns the return of Michel's father, Jerry (Rhys Ifans), a charmer certain to disappear as quickly as he came.