A DATE FOR MAD MARY
FILM REVIEW - A DATE FOR MAD MARY
Running Length: 82 minutes
Release Date: 2nd September 2016
Directed by: Darren Thornton
Cast: Seána Kerslake, Tara Lee, Charleigh Bailey, Denise McCormack
Written by: Colin Thornton, Darren Thornton
Cinematography: Ole Bratt Birkeland
Kerslake is remarkable.
A prolonged period spent directing the stage version of Yasmine Akram’s “Ten Dates with Mad Mary” has obviously allowed Darren Thornton the distinct advantage of ironing out any kinks in preparation of adapting A Date for Mad Mary for the screen (with co-writer and brother Colin Thornton). This prolonged workshop session has also afforded the director an enviable degree of familiarity with both the character and the material. The result is a film with a confident swagger rarely seen in a debut feature.
After a six-month stretch in prison for violent assault, Mary (Seána Kerslake) returns to her council house in Drogheda and finds that her bedroom is the only thing that’s remained unchanged in her absence. The world around her has moved on and Mary is stuck in limbo. Her oldest friend Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) is soon to be married, and Mary is to be maid-of-honour. But Charlene doesn’t see the point in wasting a plus-one on the undateable Mary. Struggling with this alienation from her peers, Mary aggressively rejects the pressure of growth and maturity. She falls back into her old ways, and becomes increasingly ostracised from small-town life.
Like Charles Schulz’s Peppermint Patty in a Penneys tracksuit and thousand yard stare, Mary’s violent, self-destructive streak masks an inherent sadness and underlying fear of change. Kerslake brings a measure of much-needed empathy to a character that could have easily been thoroughly unpleasant and unsympathetic. At the risk of appearing malicious (and pointing fingers), it must be said that Kerslake out-classes everyone around her with considerable ease. That’s not to diminish the efforts of Bailey, Tara Lee, or the rest of the cast, but the young actor exudes an effortless confidence beyond her years.
Don’t be fooled by the trailer; if you’re expecting a dark comedy, prepare to be disappointed. Although the jokes are thin on the ground, the few that land are worth waiting for. Nevertheless, A Date for Mad Mary is a compelling study of troubled youth with an exceptionally authentic central performance. Kerslake is remarkable. Watch this space.