God’s Creatures premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. This review contains mild spoilers.
It’s been a long time since we saw Paul Mescal. The actor, who became famous from Normal people back in the days leading up to the 2020 pandemic, he was carefully planning his next steps. In fact, it took him over a year to appear in another play – Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut in 2021, The lost daughter – and even then, his appearance was so weak that he felt as if he had been empty for a long time. As a result, his last – directed Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer and distributed by A24 – The Creatures of God, functions as its most important role since its outbreak. Blurry and strange, questioning the isolation of village life and how much we can trust our families, is a change of mood from the in love and light melancholy of this busy series.
In The Creatures of God, a lie – a word, as light but as painful as a hair break – threatens to tear down a small Irish fishing village at sea. It is a scene that lasts only a minute, but works like the moment the film turns in its head and follows the downward course of its protagonist.
Set in Ireland, the film focuses on the O’Hara family, led by Aileen, the matriarch who works as a supervisor at the local fish factory, played by the acclaimed Briton Emily Watson (Punch-Drunk Love, Breaking the Waves). The isolated wave of her life suddenly changes when her son Brian, played by Paul Mescal, returns home from Australia as a surprise. His sister, father and sick grandfather were equally shocked to see him.
After all, fish factory workers take cigarette breaks wondering what could have happened to their lives if they had left like Brian. There is little resource or demand for anything other than fishing, but leaving such a small community sounds like a grand statement. Especially in a city where most people are born, live and die under the same roof.
And so Brian returns, researching the troubled family fishing business that collapsed when he chose to throw the nest, and thinks about how it could play a role in reviving it. But the slow return to normal changes from one category, and this aforementioned lie that was told after that. The question arises: where are our alliances in situations where the pain felt by a person is scarring and persistent? And how much can time and distance change our relationship with someone we love?
The film, which premiered at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Fortnight of the director Sidebar (known as the birthplace of filmmakers such as Xavier Dolan and Chloé Zhao), marks the return of Saela and Anna, best known for their 2015 debuts. The Fits. This film, following an 11-year-old Cincinnati-based drill dancer and her troupe, was a huge success at the festival and was far from the site. God’s creatures. While writing the story for their debut, this time they worked with Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly and Shane Crowley on the screenplay, who we assume have closer ties to his graphic setting.
The film is, from a technical point of view, wonderfully shaped: the shades of dawn and dusk of coastal Ireland feel, in turn, noisy and dusty, the small fishing boats that cut the nautical ink of the water. This is the beautiful work of a Canadian-American filmmaker Chayse Irvinwho has also worked at Beyoncé Lemonade and Marilyn Monroe’s upcoming biopic, Blonde. Perhaps it was the outsider’s perspective that helped the team behind the scenes paint a picture of an ubiquitous city in a way that is both fascinating and volatile, blending well with its fascinating script.
To say more would mean relaxing his bite The Creatures of Godbut at least know this: Normal people it was not a misfortune. The Creatures of God – a sharp, strange and powerful film – proves that our man Paul Mescal has absolutely the acting ability to become something bigger than the work that gave birth to him.
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