Mammal ★★★★

It takes a special kind of cinematic guts to throw a well-renowned actress playing a shell-shocked, emotionally-crippled mother into a swimming pool in the wake of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours Blue. It’s an iconic use of colour and space and sound that immediately attracts comparison.

Mammal’s director, Rebecca Daly, has guts. She also has Rachel Griffiths. Together they take that evocative vacuum of emotion and fill it in fascinating, often confronting ways. Grittier than the Kieślowski but moving in its own right.

Griffiths is Margaret, a divorcee who, confronted with the loss of the son she abandoned, takes in Joe, a young runaway she finds unconscious on her doorstep. Joe, played with wounded, slightly menacing charisma by Barry Keoghan (and I’m trying hard not to overstate his magnetism), uncomfortably slips on the mantle of surrogate son but the mutual damage pushes both to seek a deeper connection.

Daly has a controlled sense of silence. Along with co-screenwriter Glenn Montgomery, she steers clear of locking down motivations without ever having the characters unmotivated. Margaret and Joe speak with their actions. And their inaction. How they arrived at this point is less important than how they are going to grow through it. Their journey is both bleak and beautiful.

A compelling and impeccably portrayed double portrait of loss, love and the desire for oblivion.

Block or Report