Summary: A mother grieves the loss of the son she didn’t raise.
Long story short, I’ve been on a bit of a UK kick, specifically with some past movies that star recognizable faces from Game of Thrones. Did I watch this for Michael McElhatton? Yes. Did I regret my decision? No. Onwards!
Mammal is a weird, wholly disturbing, cringe-worthy piece that is simultaneously very well-made and well-told. The film is about Margaret (Rachel Griffiths), a woman who left her husband (McElhatton) and infant for unspecified reasons. 18 years later, her son goes missing and Margaret confronts her feelings by displacing them on a young homeless Joe (Barry Keoghan). As its name suggests, Mammal portrays the inherent need to be needed and to give and receive nurture.
Now, the way the characters seek this attention is… it’s, uh… it’s messy. Let me just put it this way- I’m glad I watched this at home so my repeated chanting of “No no no no no” didn’t disturb anyone in a theater.
The film and its main character tackle the subject of grief and absence in very unsettling ways while maintaining an objective lens that offers perspective on seemingly wrong actions. While I can’t say any character does anything perfectly in this movie (I can say they are all, in fact, terrible people), I also can’t say there isn’t a reason why things unfold as they do. The stages of Margaret’s grief might be unorthodox- but people do some nutty things when they’re emotionally distraught and I can’t quite chalk up what she does to be any different or the worst thing I’ve heard of.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and really pay attention to a film like this one. I don’t think this movie is for everyone, but the way it approaches its subjects and quiet nature are things I really enjoy getting into and analyzing. The acting is superb and it’s not just because of Roose Bolton. Mammal is an overwhelmingly quiet movie with full of meaty acting performances that fill up the silence in various ways. The acting is really allowed to be expressive and also settle at the right moments. Mixed with some really nice visuals, specifically with the underwater imagery, it’s not too difficult to understand where the piece is moving towards with the minimal dialogue.
It’s really nice to see pieces trust their workers and the movie moves along fast enough (a little over 90 minutes) to where it doesn’t feel too lingering and overly long. It was nice to watch a serious work such as this with its difficult topics allow its viewers to soak and absorb the film’s subjects to fill in the gaps, providing everyone can sort out their own determinations.