Sunday, March 14, 2021

Grace Harte, on MHz

The Ostan Harte is like an Irish Fawlty Towers, but it is more run-down and less welcoming. For years, Grace Harte wanted to renovate, but her husband Leo and his domineering mother were happy with how things were. However, succumbing to the temptations of infidelity after her mother-in-law dies, leads to dramatic noir consequences for the title character in creator-writer Antoine O Flatharta’s Gaelic-language Grace Harte, premiering this coming Tuesday on MHz.

Hotel Harte is closing for the season, just like they always do. Sadly, it will be Madame Harte final season ever. Grace figures this is the time to finally modernize the premises, but Leo lashes out and closes down whenever she broaches the subject. That in turn drives her into the arms of Danny McDonagh a young surf-bum with a dodgy past. Pretty soon, McDonagh starts making suspiciously vague offers to “help” Harte with her husband problems. As Leo’s jealousy escalates, Harte leaves an ill-advised voice message asking just what he might have in mind.

Without consulting with Harte, McDonagh seizes an opportunity to take care of her husband permanently—or so he thinks. Keep in mind, the body is not immediately recovered. Nevertheless, Harte is ready to move on. She is unaware of whatever McDonagh did or did not do, but the media frenzy surrounding her husband’s disappearance is exhausting.

Filmed in an arresting black-and-white,
Grace Harte looks even more noir than it is. In terms of genre and tone, it sits in an interesting place nestled somewhere between The Postman Always Rings Twice and the stormy Richard Gere infidelity drama Unfaithful (remade from a Claude Chabrol original). Visually, GH is about as cinematic as TV gets, thanks to the windswept coastal landscapes and Dave Grennan’s distinctive cinematography, which serve them so well. You can easily see why people here might go a little crazy.

Perhaps of even greater importance, Kate Nic Chonaonaigh is really terrific as the title character. She is always completely riveting, even when making each bad decision, in a long line of conspicuously bad decisions. Eoin O’Dubhghaill is almost too blatantly slimy as McDonagh, but Dara Devaney’s subtle, complex, and ultimately surprising performance as Leo is the X-factor that really makes
GH work at a high level.

O Flatharta’s narrative maybe doesn’t end at an especially shocking place, because it is a love triangle, after all. Those rarely end happily. However, he builds a great deal of tension through the clashing of his strong characters. This is first class adult drama that should still be sufficiently noirish for genre fans in need of a fix. As a three-episode limited series, it is also long enough to fully explore its themes and characters, while not representing an extensive time investment. Enthusiastically recommended,
Grace Harte starts streaming Tuesday (3/15), on MHz.