TV review, My Mother and Other Strangers: heavy on nostalgia, low on subtlety

The show is obsessed with the inevitability of change though its approach seems trapped in the past

Rarely has a job title come so laden with significance. Clean-cut and soulful, given to long walks and quoting poetry, Captain Dreyfuss of a US airbase based in Northern Ireland in 1943 finally introduces himself as the "liaison officer". There is little doubt, in the opening episode of My Mother and other Strangers (RTÉ One, Tuesdays 10.15pm), about exactly what kind of liaison he will soon be officiating.

Played with patrician charm by Mad Men's Aaron Staton, Dreyfuss has a succession of short but meaningful encounters with another blow-in, Rose Coyne (Hattie Morahan), originally from England, who has a family with the local shopkeeper and publican (Owen McDonnell) but whose remote glances mark her out as woman unfulfilled. Delicate as the show aspires to be, it is not exactly subtle.

Glowing with nostalgia, Barry Devlin’s new drama series for the BBC (co-funded by RTÉ) is based on his own childhood experiences of growing up in Northern Ireland during the second World War. And yet it seems quite generic, bookended by a voiceover (the weathered tones of Ciarán Hinds), sometimes granting the camera the perspective of a watchful young boy gazing upwards into an adult world, reconstructing the good old, bad old days of an insular community, lovelorn and resentful, during a time of rationing, with a sentimental palette.

“You take it for granted that things are going to stay the same,” the young boy is told by the rueful GI, as though chiding the province. The show is fascinated by the inevitability of change – to people’s lives, loves, community and country. But the formula, so far, is same old, same old.