God’s Creatures (2022) – Movie Review

God’s Creatures, 2022

Directed by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer.
Starring Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi, Declan Conlon, Marion O’Dwyer, Toni O’Rourke, Brendan McCormack, John Burke, Steve Gunn, Lalor Roddy, Seán T. Ó Meallaigh, Enda Oates, and Isabelle Connolly.


In a windswept fishing village, a mother is torn between protecting her beloved son and her sense of right and wrong. A lie she tells for him rips apart their family and close-knit community.

Tracking shots, body language, and facial expressions are built for all their worth in God’s Creatures (directed by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer, working from Shane Crowley’s based on a story he conceived with Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly). Inner conflict rushes some characters as forceful as the perilous sea waves and wind gusts of this undisclosed tight-knit Irish fishing village.

In particular, Emily Watson’s Aileen O’Hara (a transfixing measured performance built on nuance and mounting psychological pressure) is so thrilled to have her preferred offspring back in town after years working in Australia, Paul Mescal’s Brian, so much so that she will lie and twist her mind into a pretzel to cover for a serious accusation leveled by one of her seafood factory coworkers, Sarah (Aisling Franciosi, as reliably emotionally powerful as ever, having blown viewers away in the astonishing but traumatically tough The Nightingale).

No one else seems excited that Brian is back, and there are many questions about why he took off to Australia. In Aileen’s inability to see the forest from the trees, she doesn’t prod Brian much about his emergence after years of zero communication. She resembles a clingy puppy that will tell her son anything he wants to hear and do anything for him to ensure he leaves again, even if she compromises her morals and the motherly respect she carries with her coworkers. Other characters point this out, such as Brian’s sister Erin (Toni O’Rourke), a fresh mother who likens their relationship to her baby breast-feeding; he might as well be attached to mom’s nipple (a fitting remark given how awkwardly close they appear).

Brian has plans to rebuild the family oyster business, much to the chagrin of his father Con (Declan Conlon), another immediate family member who shows nothing but disdain. The only area where Brian commands a degree of respect is in pubs, places that enable his misogynistic behavior. Even during moments playfully entertaining his stroke-ridden grandfather, his charm feels like an act and that there is a deeply disturbed personality inside (this duality is plagued with excellent restraint by Paul Mescal). It could also be argued that it’s a flaw how apparent it is that Brian is guilty, leaving little mystery, but that’s nowhere near the point here’ God’s Creatures is all about rich characterization.

There is also a case to be made that God’s Creatures is a bit too restrained. The picturesque photography and hypnotic long-takes that further push one inside the heads of these characters by cinematographer Chayse Irvin (spaces that accelerate in discomfort the more the filmmakers linger on) are exquisite and foreshadow doom. However, the screenplay takes its time acquainting viewers with the location and characters, and there is a noticeable lack of drama until the accusation comes to light.

That’s not necessarily a crippling problem to have, as once Aileen doubles down proclaiming her son’s innocence and alienates the rest of her family and friends, God’s Creatures transitions into a suspenseful and harrowing story about the unlimited depths of a mother’s love with the wonderment of whether or not she will come to her senses or if the patriarchy and particular lifestyle of this fishing village will win out.

The ending to God’s Creatures is simultaneously frustrating yet lyrically beautiful. There are reservations about how one aspect is wrapped up, but the final tracking shot here is enormously moving, further cementing Aisling Franciosi as a tremendous talent deserving of stardom (which folds into a banger Irish ending credits song).

To be fair, the entire ensemble is outstanding; there are multiple minutes of on-end scenes of staring at nothing but conflicted faces moving through spaces small and large, with their thoughts weighing them down like an anchor. It’s an appropriate testament to how complicated God’s creatures are.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★  / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]



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