September 29th, 2022
MOVIE: GOD’S CREATURES
STARRING: EMILY WATSON, PAUL MESCAL, AISLING FRANCIOSI
DIRECTED BY: SAELA DAVIS, ANNA ROSE HOLMER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There’s something about Ireland set films that never fails to capture a dark, rain swept, windy atmosphere. This is certainly true with God’s Creatures, a new film from directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer. The latter is most known for her indie hit, The Fits, a few years back. With God’s Creatures, the directors tackle life in a small fishing village which is just as bleak as you might expect. Women work inside cutting the fish in a factory-like setting. The men do most of the capturing which includes sifting through cages of oysters.
Emily Watson stars as Aileen O’Hara who runs the factory. She’s clearly in charge there but at home she’s surrounded by men who seem to have the upper hand. When her son Brian, played by “it” Irish actor Paul Mescal, returns home after spending quite some time in Australia, Aileen warmly embraces him back. The two have a very physically and emotionally close relationship. She’s also very protective when people start accusing him of the abuse of a local young woman. As the narrative unfolds, Aileen slowly begins to see through the character he presents to her.
The film itself is also rather slow and ponderous. So much information is withheld from viewers that even the exposition leaves much to be desired. We’re not given a lot of information about previous events and, in particular, the circumstances surrounding Brian’s earlier departure. There are a lot of shots of Watson’s face, which is always very naturally expressive and never over the top. She’s very good in the role as her earthy quality lends itself well to this environment. The problem is the script holds a lot back. We’re never quite sure what she is discovering internally. Instead we get a lot of ominous music played with drums and other sounds that come across as just as mechanical as the factory. Many of the scenes are brief without a lot revealed. It’s all a bit frustrating because we know there is some serious tension bubbling under the surface.
The film is also heavy on Irish accents that, with the exception of Watson and Mescal, are often difficult to decipher. It’s generally clear though that the abuse and misogyny present in this village leaves most characters stifled without much outlet to express the problems at hand. I’d have liked a bit more of some straight forward dialogue which would reveal more of the layers that are apparently present in the film.
Ultimately I believe God’s Creatures is trying to acknowledge how we are destroying our planet and species. The many shots of the myriad numbers of fish and oysters suggest just how abusive and seemingly uncaring we treat “God’s creatures.” How we treat each other and the planet is shameful and disturbing. The darkness of the film appropriately captures this sad state of being. Still, it’s a bit of a tough sit even with the leads’ performances and the naturalistic setting. I just wish some of the ideas here could have been expressed a bit more loudly.
GOD’S CREATURES OPENS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 30TH, 2022 IN LIMITED RELEASE IN THEATERS.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal