VOD Review - Mammal

The letters in the title when placed on the poster made the word "mama" more outstanding. It's clear that director and co-writer Rebecca Daly is examining motherhood, particularly the loss of motherhood when a woman loses her child in more ways than one. Specifically, the mother was separated from her son due to her choice, and secondly, the son died. Apparently, the mother left her child when he was just a baby and she had no contact with him for 18 years or so. One could say then she gave up motherhood. Now, she's told by her ex-husband that her son is dead after he went missing for two weeks and his body was pulled from the water.

Oscar and Emmy nominee Rachel Griffiths (Hilary and Jackie and Six Feet Under) stars as Margaret, an Australian shopkeeper in Dublin, Ireland. She has a rather lonely life. She goes to work and back home not really talking to anyone. She takes care of stray cats. She does like to swim at a nearby swimming pool. One night as she's closing her shop, she finds a boy beaten up and passed out in the alley behind her store. She takes him in and nurses him back to health, thus beginning an intimate relationship.

Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk and '71) co-stars as Joe, a street kid who's probably only 19 or 20. He's apparently run away from home. He hangs out with a bunch of thugs who lure men into alleys, beat them up, yell gay slurs and steal from them. The thugs also spend time sniffing paint and getting high that way, while loitering in train yards.

Daly gives Keoghan more of a character than Christopher Nolan in Dunkirk, but ultimately she doesn't ask Keoghan to do much more than in Dunkirk. Joe is not much more than an object of desire. He's a pretty, white boy for Margaret to stare it. After finding him in the alley, she later encounters him at the swimming pool. Her subsequent, lustful encounters with him happen in bodies of water, including a skinny dip in the ocean or mainly in the bathtub, which is the site of two of their sexual interludes.

Aside from providing him food, shelter and sex, it's not clear what this experience changes for Joe. It's not even clear if he does change as a result of meeting Margaret or even if what he feels for her or what he feels about life changes. Daly has minimal, if practically no dialogue, so we're never sure what they're thinking and Daly's scenes by the end don't spell anything out.

For Margaret, it's not sure what this experience changes for her. Perhaps, it's not meant to change her. Maybe, she can't be changed. What's frustrating is that we never learn what happened that caused her to walk away from motherhood. It's not as if she doesn't have mothering instincts, so how she ended up alone is never illuminated. Without that context, it's difficult to get a grasp on these characters or the situation.

It becomes more of a sensual film where the feelings evoked from touching skin, glances or the occasional sound are all that we have. One can assume that this is just an older, lonely woman trying to get into the pants of a hot, younger guy. It's not like she's a cougar on the prowl. This sexy boy literally just appeared on her doorstep.

In moments though, she dresses Joe up in her dead son's clothes and despite not making much of it to her ex-husband, it could be seen as her trying to reclaim her lost motherhood. This is muddled by the fact that she has sex with him. Most moms don't fornicate with their sons, at least not since Biblical times. She claims to just want to help him, but it doesn't seem like she wants to know anything about him beyond his name and the size of his penis.

Not Rated but contains full-frontal nudity, language and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.

Available on Netflix.


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