The Road Dance review – a dark tale of loss and regret

Based on John MacKay’s best-selling novel, The road dance is a period drama set in the picturesque but dreary Outer Hebrides in the early 20th century. It is a place where, as one character puts it, “even the sea comes to die”. Young Kirsty Macleod is a dreamer who imagines a life away from her small village on the Isle of Lewis and its dull routine of potato planting and Bible studies. His daydreams and innocent courtship with the sentient “books” of Murdo MacAulay come to an abrupt end one tragic night, on the eve of World War I conscription, when his life is shattered after a savage attack.

It’s at the Road Dance—an event set up to honor the village’s young men going off to fight in the war—that Kirsty is raped by an unknown assailant. As it would have been so common, she feels she has no choice but to shut up and keep her assault a secret. It’s a decision that haunts her and has consequences for everyone around her.

A talented young cast is joined by Mark Gatiss, playing the village doctor who helps Kirsty after the attack and Morven Christie as Mairi, Kirsty’s god-fearing but kind single mother. It’s a tough watch, mostly because the film goes from gray and stark to heartbreaking desolation. You won’t have much sense of humor or Scottish community in The road dance. Here, life is hard and everyone suffers. And yet, alongside poverty, war and traumatic events, there is an attempt to evoke a more comforting sense of nostalgia, through the use of sea shanties, slow-motion folk dances and cinematic shots of the Hebridean landscapes – both moods are often uncomfortable. The film is downbeat but the cast – particularly Hermione Corfield in the central lead role – delivers an assured performance that just about manages to keep the two sides of the story together.

With Hermione Corfield (The Misfits, Effort), Mark Gatis (Doctor Who, sherlock, The iron Throne), Will Fletcher (The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) and Morven Christie (The Bay, Grantchester).

The Road Dance is in theaters now.