A Date for Mad Mary is a Drogs story we should all go and see

Niall McCann


Niall McCann

A Date for Mad Mary is a Drogs story we should all go and see

Bodies strewn everywhere, dishevelled and lost looking people rummage through the bits of crumpled, ripped tents, leftover makeshift campsites more like the Jungle in Calais than some woodland retreat that fill and pockmark the horizon.

Grey, dank clouds loom above, spitting down intermittently before the heavens open, the walking wounded, the walking dead, waking up in tents scattered across the fields of Stradbally, Co. Laois, momentarily fooling themselves into thinking that “Hey I think I feel ok” and then trying to stand up and realising that not only can they not do that and also that they have no pants on.

They are soaked to the skin and what they had thought was a tent above their heads keeping them at something approaching warm and safe was in actual fact nothing more than a sorry piece of toilet roll clinging to the end of a snapped branch.

Some arrests have been made, people have imbibed, nobody remembers the stupid conversations they spent the last three days or so repeating ad hoc to anyone who would listen.

No one knows how they are going to get home or where they even are anymore, existential dread the likes of which the world has never seen; the likes of which begins to set in. You want to call your mother but you lost your phone and no one can hear you scream, the horror, the horror, the horror….

So that’s Electric Picnic over for another year.

One thing that we love more than anything here is new Irish Cinema that raises the bar and this week we have a notable entry to the recent canon of Irish films whose exceptional nature marks them out as notable and noteworthy cinematic events in a global sense not just on these here shores.

A Date for Mad Mary is the debut feature film from Irish filmmaker Darren Thornton, adapted from the play written by Yasmine Akram, which Thornton directed on the stage.

The titular protagonist Mary - played by newcomer Seana Kerslake - emerges from a stint in Mountjoy and returns to Drogheda, where she is to be the maid of honour at her best friend Charlene’s wedding.

At first the film appears like just another romantic comedy, if a high end one, but Thornton is pulling us in just to whip the ground from under us and A Date for Mad Mary really is the real deal, a surprisingly moving, funny, true portrait of both modern day Ireland and modern day friendships and relationships - both platonic and romantic.

Kerslake plays the role of Mary like it’s the role she was born to play. As previously stated Mary has just been released from prison and the film does well to hold back the details of the how, when and why until later in proceedings.

We only gleam details as we progress through the narrative, this allows Thornton to keep us guessing and we can never really be sure what tiny but important bit of new information we are going to learn of next.

Not only does the film have a refreshingly original take on familiar ideas and themes, where it really excels is as a character study and though Mary is utterly likeable it is also true that she is someone with an interminable uncontrollable rage and anger inside her which at times overcomes and threatens to submerge her and which is a constant threat to any sense of stability or happiness Mary is striving to achieve.

This stability is further threatened by the distance that has grown between Mary and Charlene while Mary has been inside. Despite the fact that her friend still wants to pick up where they left off, Mary finds herself unable to connect fully with her friends new moneyed lifestyle and one can see glimpses of modern Ireland again here: one friends gets status whilst the other gets left behind, money being the very thing that separates them.

To say any more would be to spoil the film but in a year of great Irish cinema here is yet another film which shows that perhaps finally Irish cinema is coming of age.

Kerslake invests Mary with warmth, confusion, sweetness, anger and humour and here is an Irish actress we will be hearing much more about, while Thornton is yet another new addition of a fine filmmaker to our increasingly growing roster of artists. Irish cinema is waking up.

Go see it now.