Oct 25, 2022
Jo Rou, Dan Riordan
Juliette Regnier, Logan Cutler-Smith
Loss is difficult for everyone, especially the loss of a parent. They are the people who we always, whether consciously or subconsciously look towards for help and guidance, who helped to shape our being. As we ourselves grow older and forge our own lives, separate from those of our parents, we often come to appreciate them all the more, making their death, though we understand it to be inevitable, all the more profound. Most of us grieve for a short period of time, carrying that burden on our shoulders, making our lives just a little bit heavier. However, we still mourn the loss each day, merely in different ways - there is a wonderful quote from Keanu Reeves: “Grief changes shape, but it never ends” - and occasionally it’ll come to the surface, whether that be in tears, anger, or even terror.
‘Mary’ details the last of those three, as Rich (an impressive Logan Cutler Smith), a by-the-books insurance salesman, makes a house call on an elderly woman, Mary (Juliette Regnier), a year after his mother’s passing. What begins as an ordinary visit becomes an exercise in coming to terms with his sense of responsibility for his mother’s death, and the wide range of emotions that in itself ensues.
Rich begins to see parallels between Mary and his deceased mother - their tastes in ornaments and the way in which they bake their brownies, not to mention the mannerisms inherent in any sweet, old lady. The parallels are unnerving, amplified by the continued confusion by both characters in referencing each other as ‘mother’ and ‘son’, but the film doesn’t become terrifying until Mary lists, in excruciatingly long fashion, the ways in which Rich feels responsible for his mother’s death, and tensions reach their boiling point.
Elderly women have long had the ability to terrify us. Think of Mrs Bates in Psycho, or the rotting old woman in the bathtub in ‘The Shining’ - both of those women are terrifying not through words but through actions, however. Mary is more like the Blind Medium in ‘The Others’, save for the fact that she possesses the sweet voice of a woman her age rather than the uncanny voice of a child. She is hidden in the shadows for the first half of the short, as directors Jo Rou and Dan Riordan build up suspense through words and darkness alone. Juliette Regnier is excellent as the unsettling title character, each word manifests terror the second it leaves her lips, and her eyes have that air of decrepitude about them, which just suggests that something is off.
In fact, were it not for the fact that the script, penned by Justin Lazor, is a little too obvious, then Regnier’s performance would be all the more convincing. Unfortunately, the script fails to cajole the viewer into falling for Mary’s initial charm - lines like ‘difficult to find…difficult to leave’ make it plain that there’s something off about her - and similarly weakens the suspense created through Rou and Riordan’s crafty direction. The film is shot with an artistic flourish and feels like an 80s B-Movie with modern-day editing, as the directors insert deeper layers into a film which is, at times, and particularly towards the end, a bit of fun.
Whereas normally you would deem that to be out of touch with the otherwise serious tone of the film, throughout ‘Mary’ is embedded with an undercurrent of the absurd, and that is briefly let loose in its climax. As such, ‘Mary’ is an amalgamation of three words which don’t usually go together - ‘loss’, ‘terror’, and ‘fun’. Make of that what you will, but if nothing else, after watching ‘Mary’ maybe you’ll think twice before accepting the next brownie you’re offered.