Mesmerising in 'Mammal', Rachel Griffiths is quietly powerful in a polished Irish drama

Newstalk's resident film critic Philip Molloy also takes a look at 'Eddie the Eagle'

Philip Molloy, The Picture Show, Movies on the Right Hook, Eddie the Eagle, Dexter Fletcher, Mammal, Rachel Griffiths

Australian actress Rachel Griffiths in Rebecca Daly's 'Mammal' [Sundance Institute]

Mammal (16)

We tend to get at least two or three Irish movie openings every month now and one of the most interesting recent examples is writer/director Rebecca Daly’s tale of withheld grief and reluctant desire, Mammal.

The very fine Australian actress and Oscar nominee Rachel Griffiths plays a middle-aged divorcée, Margaret, living in what has been described as “pebble-dashed purgatory” on the outskirts of Dublin. She runs a charity shop but she has mostly cut herself off from her family and the life around her and only appears emotionally or psychologically connected during her daily swims at the municipal pool.  

When her ex-husband Matt (Michael McElhatton) suddenly comes back into her life, he reveals that their 18-year-old so, who had been living with the father, has gone missing. Margaret doesn’t appear overly distressed and her life takes a slightly new direction when she befriends a young man, Joe (Barry Keoghan), whom she finds injured in an alley behind the shop. Margaret invites Joe to stay in her extra bedroom and as he moves in, the husband returns with more harrowing news – their son’s body has been found.

As the story develops into a third act, it becomes clear that Matt can’t move on from his son’s death, while Margaret attempts to use her relationship with Joe as a substitute for the one she never had with her son in order to find some measure of redemption in the process.

Mammal is built on an inherently cinematic idea, it is expertly pitched with a tightly-framed shooting style and three beautifully graded performances from the principals (Keoghan is much more sympathetic here than he was in the recent Traders). It is another one of those co-productions that the Irish film industry is so dependent on and it goes on general release on Friday. 

I’ll be speaking to Rachel Griffiths about Mammal on this week’s episode of The Picture Show. Tune in from 6pm this Saturday on Newstalk, or listen back to the podcasts here.

Eddie the Eagle (12A)

Eddie the Eagle is a fictionalised version of the story of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, a plumber from Cheltenham, who became the first person to represent Britain in ski jumping at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

I’m not giving much away by way of spoilers of a 28-year-old sporting event when I say that he wasn’t victorious – that’s the whole point of the story. Eddie pursued his dreams of becoming an Olympian in the face of his father’s scepticism, the snobbery of the British Olympics establishment, and the hostility of a bullying bunch of skiers from Norway. And while he didn’t win any medals, he became a star in the public’s affections through his persistence and willingness to try.

Eddie the Eagle is a determinedly likeable comedy with a great mismatched relationship at its centre – Taron Edgerton, best known for his breakout role in Kingsman, aims high as the title character and Hugh Jackson is having a lot of fun as his gruff mentor. 

I spoke to the film’s director, the British character actor Dexter Fletcher, on last week’s programme. Listen back to the podcast below:

Every Wednesday on The Right Hook, Philip joins George to talk movies and TV. Listen back to the podcast below:

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