Just like many of the films from the Seattle International Film Festival, A Date for Mad Mary (2016) was an expected, yet pleasant surprise. Written by brothers Darren and Colin Thornton, and directed by Darren Thornton, this film was shot in one of the oldest towns in Ireland, Droghdea. The film is a lovely adaptation from Yasmine Akram’s monologue piece 10 Dates with Mad Mary, originally written for Calipo’s ‘page2page’ program in Droghdea. Talented actress Seána Kerslake plays Mary, a 20-something girl who has just finished a 6-month term in jail and must jump right into a maid of honor position for her best friend’s wedding. What looks like a simple comedy on the outside turns out to be a unique film about self-discovery and transformation.
It is not difficult to observe from the beginning that Mary is an angry girl. She uses sarcasm every chance she gets, and there is no filter between what she thinks and what she says. Her language is rash, full of curses, and refreshingly creative; not a minute goes by without laughing at one of her reactions or comebacks to her small-town setting. Her wardrobe shows an utter disinterest in life itself. However, the moment she finds out that Charlene (Char), the bride-to-be, has not given her a +1 for her wedding, Mary embarks on a manhunt only to prove Char wrong: the first of several attempts to recover her dear friend’s attention.
Throughout the film there is a voiceover of Mary rehearsing her speech for Char’s wedding, “The things you need to know about Char…” which recites the most detailed observations, from the true color of her eyes to her profound love for brown sauce. This is one of the most precious elements in the movie, witnessing the fluidity between a person’s two extremes: the apparent roughness of character, disregard for others’ emotions and lack of empathy, with vulnerability, loyalty, love and yearning. We see a character with a strong capacity to hate and an equal potential to admire. I know what you may think: there’s nothing new about that concept, if anything it is trite. Although we see attempts of covering this idea across all of the arts, rarely is it portrayed in a well-written manner involving contemporary themes. The fact that there is good humor woven into it already places this film high above the Hollywood average.
There is a review on the film’s IMDB page that begins by saying, “A Date for Mad Mary feels like the kind of film that if it had a French director and suitable name with a rhetorical flourish it would probably get a standing ovation and walk away with a Palme D’or.” As a lover of comedy, it was rather upsetting to agree with the statement. It seems like nowadays, in order for a film to earn public respect, there is an invisible requirement stating, “make me cry a river.” In looking back at previous years’ Oscar wins, we have Moonlight (2016), Spotlight (2015), Birdman (2014), 12 Years A Slave (2013), Argo (2012), etc. By no means am I suggesting that these are not remarkable films or that they are not deserving of the Oscar. However, there is a pattern that, as viewers, we tend to lean towards drama for sentimental value.
It is true that in most cases in life, it takes suffering and struggle to grow, to appreciate and to transcend, and people like for this to be reflected back at them.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of positive moments that also help us change and move forward in our lives, like receiving a compliment for a talent you had never noticed before, or learning something new about a close friend, or helping someone in need, and so on. Life is not a competition to see who suffers the most; it is a series of mundane events that we must create meaning for. I believe it is imperative not to disregard something as insignificant just because it does not cause us pain. The humor that is incorporated into A Date for Mad Mary is a work of art. Humor not only makes us laugh and sets a positive mood; it lowers our guard to create new perspectives without the usual accompanying judgment calls. It is a subtle invitation to try a different point of view.
Towards the middle of the story, Mary stumbles across Char’s wedding photographer, Jess, whom she must meet before the event as a favor to her friend. Jess greets Mary in her dirty apartment with her last night’s hookup still in pajamas. The moment Jess walks to the restroom, he asks Mary for help, as he has forgotten Jess’ name. Unsurprisingly enough, Mary takes no shame in calling him out once Jess steps back out. An awkward initial encounter between Mary and Jess slowly grows into a deeper understanding of their mutual search to connect and belong. In a town where everyone seems to have outgrown Mary, Jess offers a hand to shed the past and create a new, identifying story. Out of fear the ending would be spoiled, I will refrain from continuing to narrate the story.
Needless to say, this is a must-see movie. Whether in theaters or online, prepare to jump out of your comfort zone, have a good laugh, and step into the shoes of a young, Irish criminal for about an hour and a half.
Lorís Simón Salum is the Creative Director for Literal Magazine. Some of the projects she has worked on include Literally Short Film Festival, Literal’s short film festival, Literally Everything, Literal’s podcast, and Ensoulment: A Diverse Analysis of the Feminine in Western Culture, Literal’s first feature documentary. You can follow her on Twitter at @lorissimonsalum.
Posted: June 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm