cinema · GFF23

Film review: God’s Creatures

How unconditional can the unconditional love actually be between a parent and their child? Filmmakers Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer explore this idea in their psychological drama God’s Creatures, the former joining the latter on directorial duties after serving as editor on her debut feature The Fits back in 2015.

Set on a remote Irish fishing village, factory worker Aileen (Emily Watson) is delighted when her estranged son Brian (Paul Mescal) unexpectedly returns home after some unexplained time away. However, when her colleague Sarah (Aisling Franciosi) accuses him of sexual assault, she is forced to question her loyalties as a mother.

Playing out against a blustery, unforgiving landscape, an intimate narrative is patiently crafted which relies upon subtle moments to expose the cracks in what appears to be a close-knit community. Penned by screenwriter Shane Crowley along with producer Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly, the efficient script achieves a lot with its minimal dialogue; sequences of tension are heightened by a jarring, string-led score as Aileen quietly grapples with her conscience whilst protecting her family.

Suffering from what British telly viewers might recognise as a Dot-Cotton-complex; our protagonist only wants to see the best in her boy, ignoring the red flags that pay heed to his mounting problems. As the plot develops, there’s a sense that her doubts in him aren’t freshly realised but, due to the restrained direction from Holmer and Davis, the film never fills in the blanks. It’s a moving performance from Watson in what is quite a rare leading role, and she collaborates very well with Mescal who continues to impress enormously. Following on from Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter and Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, he appears to thrive under female direction in these clouded portrayals.

A slow-burning, atmospheric mood piece, God’s Creatures is an unsettling film with a lingering impact, elevated by the terrific performances at its fractured heart.


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