A young woman is just out of prison and needs a date to a wedding.
A Date for Mad Mary is the first feature by theatre director Darren Thornton and it’s very good stuff indeed.
The set up is simple- Mary is seen as being a bit mental (mostly because she’s just out of prison) and is having trouble reconnecting with her former life. Also she has a wedding to go to and a point to prove by landing a man as a date.
That’s pretty much it, leaving plenty of room for a rich character study that definitely leans on the dramatic from time to time but mostly exists in a warm place of low key comedy.
Two things- it's set in Drogheda but peopled entirely by characters with north Dublin accents. That’s jarring for anyone familiar with the unique tones of the area and it’s spots (McPhails features prominently), but Thornton says it was done because they couldn’t do justice to the accent.
The second; Mary has a tattoo on her neck which constantly changes throughout the film. Continuity is a hard game and this is a low budget film but I was genuinely distracted and spent a good amount of time wondering where it would be next and whether it would be more waning moon or MS Pacman.
Those issues aside it’s a lot of fun, with some strong writing stemming from Yasmine Akram’s one woman play and expanded for the film by Thornton and his brother Colin.
Really it’s all about Mary and young Seána Kerslake gives a star making performance. She’s loud and brash when she needs to be, and complexly kind at other moments. It’s the quieter times that really define the character, potentially moving towards a new direction in her life and it’s all beautifully mounted by the actress. Expect to see more of her in the future.
The language is often coarse but frequently funny and the background players always engaging. There are some life lessons woven in which never feel forced and a very solid mix of drama and belly laughs.
Come for the comedy and stay for a mesmerising central performance from a new rising star of Irish, and hopefully international, cinema.