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A Date for Mad Mary (Galway Film Fleadh 2016)

Originally reviewed following a screening at the Galway Film Fleadh 2016. More festival coverage here.

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a date for mad mary irish film darren thornton film fleadh drogheda

Drawda Drama – ★★★★

Director Darren Thornton returns to the Drogheda he brought to the small screen in the 2004 RTÉ drama “Love is the Drug” for a story of a young woman Mary McArdle (Seána Kerslake) who is released from prison and returns home to find herself feeling like a square peg in a round hole.

Mary picked up the moniker “Mad Mary” because of her notorious temper. She most recently got into a spot of bother with another girl and a glass bottle in a nightclub, leading to six months in Mountjoy. A few weeks after her release she is maid of honour for her best friend Charlene’s wedding (played by Charleigh Bailey), with the two of them having to pretend everything is the same as it ever was. Mary’s focus quickly turns to finding a date to bring to Charlene’s wedding (gotta have a “nice fellah to match your dress”), but amidst all the First Dates Ireland outtakes, she actually finds a new source of support from somewhere unexpected – in the form of wedding videographer Jess (Tara Lee).

a date for mad mary drogheda film fleadh galwayThe film strikes a great balance between the seriousness of anger and abandonment issues, and the hilarity and daft ceremony of planning a wedding in 2016. If the central characters of Mary, Charlene and Jess weren’t so well-formed and believable the film wouldn’t work nearly as well, as the supporting cast around them are mostly just here for laughs. Kerslake as Mary is a revelation and deserves all the plaudits that are likely to come her way as she is the heart and sole of the film and delivers a performance that brings smiles and sympathy in equal measure.

Credit should also be given to Darren Thornton for his work in depicting Drogheda as a living, breathing town (this coming from a reviewer from Drogheda). A lot gets written about the Irish film and TV industry’s default move of telling stories within the M50, so to get such an authentic portrait of a town is really refreshing. His local geography is spot on and the references to Fusion nightclub, McPhails pub, Caffrey’s cabs and the Westcourt Hotel will bring a smile to locals. Also big props to all those adopting the Drawda twang.

The plot ties things up just a little too neatly at the end for some tastes, but then in a way it feels harsh to deny the central characters a little closure and catharsis. Here’s hoping the film finds a wider audience at home and abroad as it’s a new Irish film that needs to be seen.

A Date for Mad Mary is released in Irish cinemas on September 2nd 2016

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Director Darren Thornton
Cast Seána Kerslake, Tara Lee, Charleigh Bailey, Denise McCormack,  Siobhán Shanahan
Script Darren Thornton, Colin Thornton
Producers Ed Guiney, Juliette Bonass

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Nigel loves stupid films almost as much as he likes clever films. He'll watch anything but is usually drawn to documentaries, North American independent films, Irish cinema and gung-ho, balls-to-the-walls Hollywood blockbusters. Here's what he's been watching.