God’s Creatures Review: A24’s New Film Is Proof That Paul Mescal
God’s Creatures premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. This review contains minor spoilers.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Paul Mescal. The actor, made famous by normal people in the time of the 2020 pandemic, has carefully planned its next steps. In fact, it took him over a year to appear in another project – Maggie Gyllenhaal’s 2021 Oscar-nominated directorial debut. The lost girl – and even then, its appearance was so light that it feels like it’s been vacant for a lot longer. As a result, his latest — directed by Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer and distributed by A24 — God’s Creatures, acts as his most important role since his escape. Dark and curious, questioning the isolation of village life and how much we can trust our families, it’s a mood change from the amorous, light-hearted melancholy of this buzzing series.
In God’s Creaturesa lie – a word, as light but as painful as a hairline fracture – threatens to collapse a small Irish fishing village into the sea. It’s a scene that barely lasts a minute, but acts like the moment the film spins on its head, and its protagonist’s own downward spiral ensues.
Set in Ireland, the film centers on the O’Hara family, led by Aileen, the matriarch who works as a supervisor at the local fish factory, played by recognizable British face Emily Watson (love stuffed with punch, Break the waves). The isolated routine of his life suddenly changes when his son Brian, played by Paul Mescal, returns from Australia by surprise; his sister, father and sick grandfather are also shocked to see him.
After all, the workers at the fish processing plant spend their cigarette breaks wondering what would have happened to their lives if they had left like Brian did. There are few resources or demand for anything other than fishing, but leaving such a small community feels like a grand statement. Especially, in a city where most people are born, live and die under the same roof.
And so Brian returns, examining the struggling family fishing business that collapsed when he chose to steal the nest, and pondering how he could play a part in its revival. But the slow return to normal is changed by an accusation, and that aforementioned lie told in stride. This begs the question: where do our alliances lie in situations where the pain a person feels is scarring and lingering? And how can time and distance change our relationship with someone we love?
The film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the prestigious sidebar of the Directors’ Fortnight (famous birthplace of filmmakers like Xavier Dolan and Chloé Zhao), marks the return of Saela and Anna, best known for their first fiction feature film in 2015. Sections. This film, following an 11-year-old Cincinnati-based drill dancer and her troupe, was a festival hit and a far cry from the location of God’s Creatures. As they wrote their debut story, this time they worked alongside Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly and Shane Crowley on the screenplay, which we assume has closer ties to its picturesque setting.
The film is technically beautifully formed: the dawn and dusk hues of seaside Ireland feel alternately eerie and dusty, small fishing boats traversing the inky sea of the ‘water. It’s the excellent work of Canadian-American cinematographer Chayse Irvin, who also worked on Beyoncé’s film. Lemonade and the upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic, Blond. Perhaps it’s this outsider’s perspective that helped his behind-the-scenes team paint a picture of an ubiquitous city in a way that’s both seductive and volatile, pairing well with its compelling storyline.
To say more would be to spoil the bite of God’s Creaturesbut know this, at least: normal people was no coincidence. God’s Creatures – a sharp, curious and powerful film – proves that our man Paul Mescal absolutely has the acting prowess to become something bigger than the project that birthed him.
God’s Creatures will be released by A24 later in 2022. This review was posted during the Cannes Film Festival. Follow iD on Instagram and TikTok for more from the films.