'Mad' Mary McArdle (Seana Kerslake) returns to Drogheda after serving a prison sentence and tries to readjust to normal life. Her best friend, Charlene (Charleigh Bailey), is now engaged to be married and has moved on from her rebellious youth with Mary. As her wedding draws near, Mary resolves to find herself a date for the wedding.
film like A Date For Mad Mary is depressingly rare. A film set in Ireland that doesn't overtly use it as a story device or backdrop, that's focused on women and actually sounds convincing and feels believable. From the opening shots of the film, it's made clear that both its setting - Drogheda - and the story itself transcends parochialism cleanly and effortlessly.
he story centres around Mary McArdle (Seana Kerslake), released from prison and on her way back home after an indeterminate amount of time away. As she tries to find her way back into normal life, her life-long friend Charlene (Charleigh Bailey) is now engaged to be married and has effectively left behind her rebellious youth that she shared with Mary. As she prepares for her wedding, Charlene informs Mary that she's gotten rid of her plus-one for the wedding as she didn't expect her to have a date in such short time. All the while, Charlene is slowly freezing Mary out of her life, despite Mary's best efforts to do otherwise. The film follows along a somewhat predictable path until Mary meets Jess (Tara Lee) and the film shifts gears quite quickly.
hat A Date For Mad Mary hinges on is the performances and the predominantly-female cast delivers in spades. Seana Kerslake gives a breakout performance as Mary, astutely underplaying the role when needed and giving it a human, naturalistic performance throughout. The same is true of Charleigh Bailey, who has a tough job of getting the audience to relate to a character that's complex and, at times, unlikeable. There's a brilliant scene between the two on the steps of the church that really shows just how good these two actors are; it's almost a throwaway scene but the subtleties at work is fascinating to watch. The supporting cast of Tara Lee, Siobhan Shanahan and a few one-liners by Barbara Brennan all fill out their roles admirably and make for a wholly unified ensemble.
arren Thornton's direction is, like her performers, unglamourous and uninhibited but with a real sense of natural beauty to it. Some of the night sequences have a beautiful sense of colour and the use of Stephen Rennicks' score throughout really drives the film along when needed. Likewise, his screenplay - co-written with his brother (?) Colin - doesn't belabour any particular scene with emotions unless it's necessary and serves a purpose. There are scenes in the film that are truly rich with colour, texture that'll resonate long after the film's over and its use of biting humour and wit is, again, sharply and economically used.
verall, A Date For Mad Mary is a finely crafted Irish dramedy that packs an emotional punch and richly funny in places.