A Date for Mad Mary – movie review

by Peter Calder / 14 August, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Mad Mary

A Date for Mad Mary.

In this beautifully crafted film, an ex-con needs to find a partner for a wedding.

Fresh from its festival screenings, this unassuming but winning Irish film relies for its considerable appeal on the irresistible performance of Seána Kerslake in the title role of a young woman who remains improbably charming while being pissed off at pretty much everything.

In the opening sequence, she’s just out of prison for an unspecified crime (we soon guess it has something to do with her fondness for fighting, which features in YouTube clips with titles such as “Mad Mary Kicks Off”), and it’s to the movie’s credit that we are given the real explanation quietly, in a short scene made more viscerally powerful for its wordlessness.

Anyway, the ungovernably angry Mary is due to be maid of honour at the wedding of her best friend, Charlene, a brittle, self-obsessed beauty who believes in writing the bridal party’s speeches for them. The film’s central conceit (it is adapted from 10 Dates with Mad Mary, a 2010 stage monologue, written and performed by Yasmine Akram) is that she has to find a plus-one to take to the event.

Traces of the film’s stage roots remain in the sparing use of voiceover, but Darren Thornton, who directed the original and co-wrote the meticulous screenplay with his brother Colin, has opened it up from a bleakly profane comedy to the most unpredictable love story, though it would be a crime to let slip more details of that subplot.

Killer lines remain – a standout is Mary’s cider-swilling nan, who dismisses the young woman’s dateability with the line “A f---ing sniper wouldn’t take you out” – but the film, a bit like Mary, never pleads for our attention. It has a deadpan humour about it and it does farce when it’s needed, but Kerslake’s Mary conjures up a character of complexity and texture.

Rich in a sense of place (it was made in rain-soaked Drogheda, between Dublin and the border), A Date for Mad Mary is beautifully crafted, laying small narrative time bombs that go off at crucial moments and constantly subverting the genre’s conventions. There’s a reassuring authenticity about every scene, right to the last perfect moment.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★

This article was first published in the July 15, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Why are so many people unwilling to share the road with bikes?
87370 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Social issues

Why are so many people unwilling to share the road…

by Rebecca Macfie

Cycling has the potential to make us healthier and happier, and our cities less congested and polluted. So why are so many people against it?

Read more
No sex, please, we're Aussies
87452 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z World

No sex, please, we're Aussies

by Bernard Lagan

Former Aussie Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce is scorned for being not only a philanderer but, worse, a Kiwi.

Read more
Why trees in the cities need protecting
86194 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Environment

Why trees in the cities need protecting

by Margo White

Cities are losing their big trees at an alarming rate. At what cost to our health and wellbeing?

Read more
Here and Now is a masterclass in American disenchantment
87425 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Television

Here and Now is a masterclass in American disencha…

by Diana Wichtel

Watching an actual Nazi run for US Congress, maybe Here and Now is right.

Read more
How to lose weight without a diet
87141 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to lose weight without a diet

by Jennifer Bowden

"The irony is the intentional pursuit of weight loss – dieting, in other words – is actually a predictor of future weight gain."

Read more
Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later-life reboot
87313 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Social issues

Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later…

by Sally Blundell

The biggest cohort of baby boomers is reaching retirement age – and many are not planning a quiet dotage.

Read more
School shootings and Russian indictments
87455 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z World

School shootings and Russian indictments

by Joanne Black

Slaughter in a school and Russian social-media mischief: the US is under siege.

Read more
Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits
87417 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Profiles

Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits

by James Belfield

Before headlining Auckland City Limits, Beck talks about celebrating his musical past on stage and on record.

Read more