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God’s Creatures ★★★



Directed by: Saela Davis, Anna Rose Holmer

Starring: Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi, Declan Conlon

Release: 31st March 2023

Paul Mescal’s star has been on the rise since his breakout turn as Connell in Normal People in 2020; he followed this with his Oscar-nominated role in Charlotte Well’s acclaimed Aftersun. Mescal’s latest is another regular on the festival circuit, God’s Creatures, also starring Emily Watson in the lead role. God’s Creatures focuses on a quiet Irish fishing village where Aileen is a shift manager at a seafood processing plant, going through a mundane existence where much of the income comes from the sea, oysters especially.

Eileen’s quiet life is upended by the sudden return of her son Brian who had left to seek his fortune in Australia and had failed to keep in regular contact, failing to inform his family that he was returning. Brian’s return is mysterious, with him being especially cagey about his time in Australia and the reason for his abrupt return home.

Brian steps back into the old life he seemed to hate attempting to revive his family’s failing oyster farm, spending his days repairing cages and seeding them. One thing God’s Creatures does especially well is capturing the importance of the oysters and fishing community showing how isolated the community is and built around one industry.

It’s an intriguing film that doesn’t play out how audiences might expect a performance from Mescal, a world apart from the vulnerable and compassionate Callum in Aftersun, here far more cagey and almost menacing. Emily Watson is always a joy to watch. It is a treat to have her back in a leading role with an often quiet introspective performance that shows why she is one of Britain’s best-loved actors, doing an impressive Irish accent acting opposite a predominantly native Irish cast. Aisling Franciosi is one of the standouts beyond the two leads as Sarah, who plays a vital role in the narrative, accusing Callum of rape which upends Eileen and Brian’s worlds and places their already fractious relationship under immense strain.

While God’s Creatures does a good job building tension through its dramatic landscapes and performances, Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans Score can sometimes feel overly dramatic and oppressive, signposting dramatic moments and ultimately feeling distracting from the events depicted on screen. This is a shame as it is a well-performed and Directed film. At 100 minutes, it never feels too slight, covering much ground and building an impressive sense of community.

While Mescal and Watson are superb, there are drawbacks in some of the tonal shifts and writing for the family making it difficult at times to connect with or sympathise with them. For the most part, the performances make it rise above this, but it can lead to moments that are less accessible to audiences.

Gods Creatures is a dark, moody film with Mescal sure to be one of the main draws. The performances help it stand out, but there are some issues with its tonal jumps and overbearing score. However, the Irish landscape is impressive, and this continues the fine recent run for Irish Cinema off the back of The Quiet Girl and The Banshees of Inisherin.

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