Women take centre stage
Written by Colin Thornton and directed by Darren Thornton but based on Yasmin Akram’s stage play, A Date For Mad Mary is all about women. With an Almodovarian grá for the complex inner workings of women, Thornton has created a world brimming with colourful, complicated Irish women in all their mad glory.
Incredible Irish acting talent
Star Seána Kerlake is a real find and will no doubt shoot from here straight up the Hollywood ladder but her haunting screen presence and wickedly sharp-edged wit do not distract from the brilliant, funny and moving performances from the supporting characters in the film. Charleigh Bailey has a tough job in lending heart to Mary’s best friend and bridezilla, Charlene but the character, for all her faults is imbued with a vulnerability and intelligence that ensures that the audience knows that there’s something going on underneath it all. Denise McCormack gives a fine performance as Mary’s self-centred but lonely mother and Tara Lee is luminous as ethereal songstress Jess, not to mention Shauna Higgins’ brief but undeniably brilliant turn as rapping colleague Julie. The actors and the characters are given room to shine and it’s an absolute joy to discover all these wonderful women.
The horror of weddings
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had to witness the horrors of wedding planning. Whether for your own or for a friend, the stressful and often outlandish rituals that go into the process of planning a wedding are perfectly depicted here. The cheesy hen, the bitchy bridesmaid, the intense vanity – the film takes great delight in slagging off the process to perfection!
Breaking all the rules
The concept might sound like a rom-com but it couldn’t be further from the truth. While there’s certainly great humour mined from Mary’s dating fiascos, the focus is always on her character’s experience and just how the reality of these potentially wacky escapades are not so funny but bitterly humiliating and damaging. Over the course of the film, Mary becomes subtly introspective and the character slowly begins to question her choices and behaviour and we love the answers that she finds!
It’s nice to see an Irish film set somewhere other than Dublin. Drogheda is a beautiful, historic town that was hit by the collapse of the Celtic Tiger like so many other mid-size towns in Ireland. Thornton, a Drogheda native, captures perfectly that feeling of returning home, to a place that you love and despise, that feels comfortable and alien all at once and where you absolutely cannot hide your past mistakes.
Apart from a cracking script and superb performances, A Date For Mad Mary is stylish piece of work whose aesthetic captures contemporary Ireland perfectly. Lovely cinematography mixes the mundane with the neon, and the gentle with the stark without ever feeling anything less than completely authentic. With a brilliant, throbbing soundtrack and an editing style that’s not afraid to take a few risks, this is exciting filmmaking from a talented team.
The great strength in this film is the fact that the characters are allowed to be complicated. Each character is difficult to love, but the film is full of compassion and appreciation for the characters’ strengths. Each of these women is flawed, but they are all given moments of tenderness and moments in which they lay themselves bare, giving us an insight into their motivations and situations. Mary is a whirlwind of rage and even when it’s hidden, she shows it in every roll of her eyes and every sharp remark. But as we go on her journey with her the layers peel back and we grow to love her complicated inner demons and watch with huge empathy as she battles them. The film gives the character permission to be unlikeable while also giving her room to grow.
A perfect ending
Mary’s journey is one that leads her back to herself and herself only. She cannot blame others for her actions or situations but she also must not depend on other people solely to make her happy. This realisation eventually gives us a kinder, warmer Mary. One who is enlightened enough to put herself on the right path for once. What could be more empowering than that?
That Irish Sense of Humour
A Date For Mad Mary deals with a lot of very serious issues around mental health, social stigma and relationships but let’s not forget how absolutely hilarious it is! Mary’s sharp tongue gives us some of the best cinematic zingers of the year and the supporting characters are perfect fodder for hilarity. The script captures the Irish wit perfectly. The no-nonsense, lyrical, fearless Irish wit is a force of nature and this film is a perfect example of it.
We love Mary!
The main reason we love this film is how much we love Mary. She’s certainly a handful, but she’s the kind of female character we need to see so much more of. Complicated, messy, smart, assertive and someone whose journey leads her to look after emotional and mental well-being instead of looking elsewhere for blame/answers. Her character’s journey is such a satisfying one and we, as an audience, suffer through all her poor choices and bad behaviour only to find at the end that Mary has discovered something about herself. Something we knew all along – that she’s great!