'The Picture Show' host Philip Molloy praises the new Irish film
A Date for Mad Mary is an expertly crafted, Film Board-backed first time feature by writer/director Darren Thornton that goes on general release throughout the country this weekend (2nd Sept). It is a funny, turbulent, sharply observational journey film set between two dates in the title character’s life. We begin with Mary being freed from prison after serving six months for an attack on another girl in a Drogheda night club; then, with a series of voice-over chapter headings, the movie charts her efforts to find a date in time for her best friend’s Charlene’s wedding and her preparation of the bridesmaid’s speech.
With a running time of 82 minutes, Mad Mary – which Thornton adapted with his brother Colin – is one of the most assured and naturally developed Irish films that we’ve seen in the last few years. Everything about it seems to work – Thornton knows how to hold, balance and shape a scene; he understands pacing and film structure and he is so mature in his choices that you wonder how this could possibly be a first feature. Then, he’s been writing and directing shorts for 12 years – presumably teaching himself to become a filmmaker.
Most of all, Thornton is a gifted and sensitive director of actors: A Date for Mad Mary is driven by a richly endowed ensemble of women actors led by Tara Lee, Charleigh Bailey and most of all Seána Kerslake, who is in virtually every scene and plays the movie’s mix of comedy and drama with a really deft hand. She’s been getting a lot of attention since the movie’s success at the Galway Film Fleadh and she deserves all of it.
And, by the way, the part which production company Element Pictures played in the making and development of A Date for Mad Mary should also be noted – the company has been leading the charge on behalf of the Irish film industry since it was founded by producer Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowell in 2001.