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'The South Westerlies' review: Picturesque, but not compelling

Orla Brady in Acorn TV's "The South Westerlies."

Orla Brady in Acorn TV's "The South Westerlies." Credit: Acorn TV

SERIES "The South Westerlies"

WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Acorn TV

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Kate (Orla Brady) returns to her hometown of Carrigeen on the Irish coast, tasked by her employer — a Norwegian-based energy company — with convincing the locals to drop their opposition to an offshore wind farm.

No one in town has seen or heard from her in quite some time (and they apparently lack the ability to Google), so her bosses tell her to go undercover. She pretends to simply be returning home with her teenage son Conor (Sam Barrett) for a vacation.

"The South Westerlies," a six-episode series from creator Catherine Maher, is now streaming on Acorn TV, the American service specializing primarily in British TV.

MY SAY This is yet another story of a prodigal daughter or son returning to a small-town home, becoming reacquainted with important figures of their past, and facing old wounds and memories long since buried.

It has all the tropes one might expect of this back-in-town template, including a collection of subplots involving the mildly quirky locals and their everyday lives.

The first three episodes of "The South Westerlies" stand as a pleasant if utterly familiar experience filled with the usual archetypes: the abandoned friend who runs a cafe Breege (Eileen Walsh); the fun-loving surfing instructor Baz (Steve Wall) with whom our hero shares a close personal history and so many more.

The divisive wind farm matter might be the talk of the town — local objections are heard at town meetings; a book club operates under the strict rule that it can never be discussed — but it's really just a plot device in order to bring Kate back home, so that she can become reacquainted with her past and find herself once more.

This is really not a topical dramedy. You won't learn much about the issues impacting modern small-town Ireland and the push-and-pull between economic and environmental concerns mostly sits in the background.

Orla Brady ("American Horror Story: 1984") does what she can with what she's given, perfecting an aura of compassion mixed with general unease. She may have fled the village for Dublin and she might be having a tough time facing the reasons for that all these years later, but she also genuinely loves these people and this place.

Unfortunately, that's not exactly compelling fodder for a series spanning roughly five hours. It's too routine and too digestible; there's not much in the way of drama, and when the occasional big moment flares up, there's little doubt that it will be quickly and efficiently resolved.

The impact of that blandness might have been mitigated somewhat had there been anything to offer in terms of Conor's own experience of his mom's hometown, but he's not much more interesting than his mom.

None of the Carrigeen characters completing the ensemble picture offer anything in the way of comic relief, or something else to give the sanitized atmosphere a jolt. They are, generally speaking, good people who are perhaps a bit on the obstinate side.

"The South Westerlies" is picturesque, practically bathed in warm golden light and wind-swept coastlines. It is utterly unobjectionable — and for some viewers that might well be enough of a recommendation. This general mood might sustain an 80-minute feature film, but it's a tough sell for six episodes.

BOTTOM LINE This is not a bad series by any means and might be worthwhile for anyone seeking a complete and total escape from everything going on in the world, but it's not a particularly compelling experience.

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