A Date For Mad Mary Dir: Darren Thornton


If you’re after a bit of craic at the NZ International Film Festival you won’t go wrong with A Date For Mad Mary, an expertly handled soulful rom-com.

The Irish have a knack for crafting wonderful dramedies, movies with a defiant spirit and salt-of-the-earth hilarious characters you’d love to have pint of the black stuff with. If you’re fond of Irish exports like of The Guard, The Commitments and Sing Street book a date with the one and only Mary.

Mary, just released from prison, is maid of honour for her best friend’s wedding. Desperate and dateless she is on a mission to find a plus one, but finds a lot more about herself in the search for love.

On a wet Thursday afternoon a busy ASB Waterfront Theatre savoured the mix of laugh out comedy – just wait till Mary’s gran offers her brutal opinion – and the emotional punches this terrific dramedy offers. Nothing is more heartening than a good laugh and a cry.

And it never outstays its welcome. If anything Thronton and his brother Colin – who adapted the play together – offer up the best recent example of how to write a tight script that avoids clichés and moves along at a good clip. The sweet, open ending at 82 minutes is perfectly judged.

Casting wise Thronton couldn’t have nailed it better. Newcomer Seana Kerslake is a revelation, shocking us out of rom-com complacency with her foul-mouthed ‘mad’ Mary outbursts, and even managing to regain our sympathy the morning after.

Like any good Irish film a lot of the laughs are a credit to the rich and rounded mainly female supporting cast. Siobhan Shanahan does a brilliant job as the misfortunate bridesmaid, Mary’s mum might just as bad as dating but delivers some of the best dramatic scenes, and her poor lineup of men from a dating agency are a crackup.

But as my mum tells me the one will turn up when you’re not out hunting for it, and Mary’s romance is surprising and tender. Thronton’s handling is just note-perfect, and with Mary’s knack for causing trouble the drama that follows is heavy and powerful stuff.

A Date For Mad Mary made it into my top ten movies to watch, and it didn’t disappoint. A classic Irish craic of friendship, first love and finding out what truly matters.

Clayton Barnett (https://www.youtube.com/user/claymonster22/videos)

NZIFF page: https://www.nziff.co.nz/2017/auckland/a-date-for-mad-mary/