MOVIE REVIEW: Mammal

Drama set in Dublin, Ireland.  A middle-aged woman is trying to rebuild her life after returning to Dublin.  We learn that many years ago she abandoned her son and his father while the child was very young.  Margaret is unsure of how she should feel when she learns that her son is missing, his father Matt is trying to reconnect with her and see if their son has made contact.  Things take a turn for the worse when they find out that their son has drowned.  Margaret takes in a young thug and starts to develop a relationship with him, while Matt is trying to start their relationship over again.

I have to give Rachel Griffith massive amount of credit here for her accent, the Muriel’s Wedding star has a better Dublin accent than I do.  This film is rather heavy going for a drama, which may sound an odd thing to say, but the subject matter is such that there are not a lot of light-hearted moments through the film.

The story about a Mother who leaves her infant son and his father is one that will be hard for some people to understand but I’m sure that the idea has probably crossed the mind of a lot of people.  You’re unsure if it was post natal depression or just that Margaret has no maternal instincts.  Margaret works in a charity shop and it’s while closing the shop one night that she first meets young thug Joe.  Joe has been badly hurt and lays bleeding when Margaret starts to patch him up and clean the wound.  When their paths cross again in a local swimming pool Margaret offers a free room to the young lad.

What happens during the film is that Joe starts to become a surrogate child to Margaret she can take care of him, maybe some form of contrition, and this relationship turns from a Mother Son form into lovers.  The age difference between the two doesn’t feel as creepy as some other relationships in the history of movies, that is most of Woody Allen’s films where he is dating some of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood.

Joe is played by Barry Keoghan, who looks like a natural villain, and he gives this amazingly dark and at the same time touching performance.  Joe is part of a gang of teens who are mugging people around the area, and Margaret knows nothing about this.  To Margaret he becomes a strange attraction.  Matt is trying to understand Margaret and also trying to rekindle their romance but it’s clear that Margaret doesn’t want anything to do with him and yet won’t tell him as much with words.

I would find it hard to sit through this again, and I don’t know why, it’s beautifully acted and the story is compelling.  But maybe it is too dark for a normal drama with Margaret slipping slightly into Joe’s world so easily you wonder what is going to happen next.  Margaret is played by Griffith in a way that is a little haunting, wanting to help those around her, yet disconnected with the world as a whole.  You can tel she is trying to make up for leaving her son in many different ways by taking care of Joe and also some stray cats, and doing charity work.  Mammal is a real drama about trying to find your way back to being human after doing something that most humans could never do.  The whole film is shot in a way that brings you into the real world situations and leaves you in a way that you don’t know what to hope for with any of the characters.  This strange ending to the film gave me no conclusion to the story, I know you can guess what is going to happen, but there could have been something that left you feeling uplifted rather than confused.

Director: Rebecca Daly
Writers: Rebecca Daly, Glenn Montgomery
Stars: Rachel Griffiths, Michael McElhatton, Barry Keoghan

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