Director: Lynne Davison
Writer: Matt Harvey
Cast: Deirdre Mullins, Derbhle Crotty, Paul Kennedy, Seamus O’Hara, Nigel O’Neill, Ian Beattie
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25./26.9.2022
Content Note: misogyny
Cathy (Deirdre Mullins) is a probation officer. She practically lives for her work and sees little of her son who lives with his dad (Paul Kennedy), the local police officer. When Mary (Derbhle Crotty) is released from prison after two decades, Cathy takes on the case because nobody else wants to. The locals still tell legends about Mary and how she murdered her husband. Cathy also finds herself ill at ease when she meets Mary to give her her ankle tracker. And then two children go missing and everybody is in uproar.
Mandrake didn’t work for me at all. Not only is it a straight-up witch story with none of the misogyny removed, it is also boring as fuck. I mercifully fell asleept at some point, but I probably should have just gone home to bed instead of watching this.
Look, it’s 2022 and after centuries of maligning women as witches and killing them for it, you need to be careful about how you tell witch stories. At least if you don’t want to reproduce the misogyny that is baked into the concept. Mandrake doesn’t care. There’s this woman, she is an evil, child-stealing witch, end of story (I mean, there might be more explanation, I fell asleep before the showdown and the explaining happened. But really, there is no way this film could have turned this around anymore).
In addition to this, it is also a troubling take on probation. Mary was in prison for killing her abusive husband. This abuse the film pretty much excuses for having her being an evil fuck, because obviously she deserved it and her husband was probably trying to save everybody from her. Anyhow, since she immediately gets up to no good as soon as she is released, this calls the probation process into question in its entirety. It’s probably best not to release anybody from prison ever, the film seems to say. And that is fucked up.
If all of this wasn’t enough, the film is simply boring. It just doesn’t manage to raise the necessary tension. I just didn’t care about any of it. If I had been more invested, I probably would have been able to stay awake, but I really couldn’t.
I did like Cathy in her abrasive way, and I thought that the relationship she has with her son and her ex-husband is quite interesting. But that just wasn’t enough to make the film work.