Dir.: Saela Davis, Anna Rose Holmer; Cast: Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi, Declan Conlon, Toni O’Rourke, Lalor Roddy, O’Dwyer); USA/UK/ROI, 100 min.
An ambitious murder story unfolds in the style of a fishy Greek tragedy in this Ireland-set thriller from Brooklyn-based filmmakers Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer.
In a dour and windswept fishing village a mother called Mary (O’Dwyer) is crying over the body of her drowned son, while another, Aileen O’Hara (Watson) is celebrating the return from Australia of her own offspring, Bryan (the ubiquitous Paul Mescal). Aileen’s husband Con (Conlon) and daughter Erin (O’Rourke) are less keen to see Bryan who was a tear-away in his youth. Grandfather Pat (Roddy), who spends his days napping, gets on best with Bryan, the two singing old seafarer songs.
Bryan has come back in the hope of reviving his father’s defunct oyster farm, but that’s not his only mission in life. With an eye for the girls he sees every female in the village as a potential paramour but soon comes a cropper with a less pescatarian catch in the shape of Sarah (Franciosi), whose delicate features belie a stern personality when challenged. But Bryan’s ‘way with woman’ fails to make the oysters thrive and soon the plant has to stop working full time due to fungal contamination. Meanwhile Emily Watson, as mesmerising as ever as Aisleen, has more fish to fry that normal grafting in a fish processing plan and dealing with her son’s slimy reputation. She will soon be forced her to make a decision that will destroy everything she has worked for. As that’s not all, the local fishermen soon start complaining about missing catches.
The scope of the production is very much like a TV play, with action scenes covering up for the sparse emotional content: there is no slow dramatic build up, just sudden outbursts of violence, and the motivations are only too obvious. Most members of the O’Hara clan seem rather one-dimensional making this a rather predictable story held together by solid performances, Mescal playing against his usual cuddly casting in Normal People and Aftersun. DoP Chayse Irvin does a great job with his panorama shots of this coastal backwater, and his images in the food procession plant show the terrible working conditions in this seething study of mother love gone wrong. AS
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