tue 22/10/2019

Mari review - bittersweet drama with flair | reviews, news & interviews

Mari review - bittersweet drama with flair

Mari review - bittersweet drama with flair

Unusual mash-up of styles creates a strangely compelling film

Professional dancer Bobbi Jene Smith debuts as lead Charlotte

Mari is one part kitchen sink drama, one part dance performance, bringing a refreshing take on bereavement and family. Dancer Charlotte joins her mother and sister at her dying grandmother’s bedside, and tensions rise as cabin fever sets in.

Director Georgia Parris clearly understands how to film dance. The camera sways through rehearsals as bodies writhe in a cacophony of shapes. It’s hypnotic filmmaking, reaching crescendo in a dream sequence full of stark imagery. Her previous short films have focused on dancers, and this experience shows.

Much of the film, though, is spent away from the routines, in the dark rooms of the hospital and grandma’s cottage. It’s oppressive, sometimes tiring, capturing the tension that hangs in the air when a loved one is dying. Bobbi Jene Smith in MariThe interactions between Charlotte and her sister will be immediately familiar to those with siblings, bouncing between tenderness and bitterness. One has dedicated her life to her dancing, the other to her family, and there’s tangible jealousy between the two. Their mother tries to stay above it, occasionally annoyed by both’s flaws. These scenes can occasionally feel as awkward for the viewer as the characters, but they’re broken up by sweet moments of connection.

Mari is carried by the performances. Lead Bobbi Jene Smith is a knuckle cracker’s dream, constantly crunching and tugging like she’s still being acquainted with her flesh suit. In moments of privacy, she will spasm into quick dances as a way of processing her situation. It’s a powerful debut. Phoebe Nicholls, also gives a lovely, delicate performance as her mother, trying to keep the peace while dealing with her own loss.

It’s a film as much about what is not said as what is – little shared moments, or avoided glances, pages of dialogue about everything but the real story. It won’t be for everyone, with a slow pace and simple plot, but there’s an unspoken beauty in its frames. Plenty of British dramas deal with loss, and some are more effective, but Mari offers a unique and mesmerising alternative.


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