Delinquent Drogheda lady Mary (Seána Kerslake) returns home after a short stint in prison. She’s just in time to be maid of honour for her best friend Charlene (Charleigh Bailey), who appears to be avoiding her and getting closer to other people. After being informed that she wasn’t given a plus one on the assumption she wouldn’t have one, Mary goes out of her way to find a date, eventually instilling the help of Charlene’s wedding photographer Jess (Tara Lee).
It’s not often a movie surprises you. When I saw the trailer for this film, I figured I had it all chalked up as some maybe slightly edgy but ultimately inoffensive comedy drama with perhaps a showcase to great talent. I went mostly on the advice of people I respected. They were right, my assumptions were wrong. A Date for Mad Mary is one of the richest and most impressively made Irish films that has come out all year.
I kind of want to end the review here, because one of the best things about the film is that is helps to go in blind. It’s great, go see it. Though for those who need context; A Date for Mad Mary captures probably better than a lot of films out there the anxieties and isolation of being stagnated in your young adulthood. ‘Mad’ Mary is haunted by the sins of her past and her inability to take charge in her life. She flies off the handle, is ridiculously detached and disinterested in anything that isn’t drinking, and most importantly cannot tether the strings of her childhood friendship, despite the other half of this equation having clearly moved on.
What makes this work so well is that every dynamic feels so natural. They really do feel like real people. While it could have been easy to paint Charlene as cold and bitchy, there actually is a lot of effort to humanise her. She can be self-obsessed and vain, but she has a lot of love to give her friend despite the wall put up between them. Similarly, Mary’s mother Suzanne (Denise McCormack) is wonderfully characterised, as a woman so caught up in her own drama she cannot see how much her daughter needs support.
This is Mary’s story, and Mary absolutely shines. Seána Kerslake is a true discovery in the role, managing to be reserved and sympathetic, while also rough and outspokenly troublesome. Mary is so layered that you almost forget how damaging and offensive she can be. It’s a great character study of somebody not ready or willing to discover herself, and this arc leads into one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve seen all year. Seriously, the last 10 minutes are so rewarding.
A Date for Mad Mary manages to be funny and touching without every feeling sentimental or false. With a wonderful perspective of young adulthood lead by a stunning central performance, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give this movie a bash. A combination of expert direction and intelligent writing help bring Kerslake and Mary’s madness to life.
Oh, and the soundtrack is great, too.