God’s Creatures, a uniquely new Irish movie starring Paul Miscal and Emily Watson, was shown to standing ovations at the directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.
Meskal plays a wanderer who returns to a remote fishing village and, after a violent accident, urges his mother to lie on his behalf to the authorities. The veteran English Academy Award nominee, Watson, gives a solid performance as the feuding mother. Meskal, who has been super busy since breaking out with regular people in 2020, asserts his ability to work mysterious smiles with serious magic.
A brief drama filmed in Teelin, Co Donegal, God’s Creatures plays with the kind of popular drama that Federico García Lorca brought to the brighter atmosphere of the antebellum years. Vodhla Cronin O’Reilly, BAFTA-nominated producer on Lady Macbeth, based her upbringing in Kerry when developing the story.
Just because of how specialized it is, I feel that it resonates globally – especially in terms of personality psychology
“I’m from a small fishing village in Ireland,” she told The Irish Times. “It’s very personal stuff. So I had the world and all the characters and so on.”
She thought of her friend Shane Crowley as a potential screenwriter. “He’d never read a screenplay, let alone write a screenplay and I was just learning how to develop films. So it was a real learning curve for both of us. Traveled to London. We spent two weeks in my apartment during a severe heat wave. We’ve been tackling the script away ever since.”
They ended up with a movie that almost didn’t look like something they had imagined in a heat wave. Rain hits the characters as they roam the waves in search of oysters. Hurricanes indicate wild feelings hidden under a fixed shield. However, God’s creatures were directed by two Americans: Anna Rose Holmer and Syla Davis.
“Well, our story is definitely very specific,” Cronin O’Reilly says. “But because of how specialized it is, I feel that it resonates globally—particularly in terms of personality psychology. They called that straight away. There is no doubt about their connection to the material.”
The project is a co-production of Screen Ireland, BBC and the well-respected independent American studio A24. That latter company has received 25 Academy Award nominations over the years, and in 2017, it won Best Picture for its movie Moonlight. There is no better place to launch such a project than Fortnight for Directors. Founded in 1969 as a more radical response to the student revolts that shut down Cannes a year earlier, the semi-official band, playing just a few hundred meters from the Palais des Festivals, has launched the careers of such greats as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Spike Lee. New Oscar nominees like Whiplash and The Florida Project made their debut there.
We described Fortnight to directors as Brooklyn and the main competition as Manhattan
“Well, when I think of Directors’ Week, I think of the original bold sounds,” Cronin O’Reilly says. And trying to tell stories is not extensive. Directors’ Week is open for experimentation – not that other categories aren’t. Some of our team members are from New York. We described Fortnight to directors as Brooklyn and the main competition as Manhattan. “
The festival confirms that Meskal is currently unstoppable. A few weeks after his filming at the Met Gala, he appeared in two films in Cannes. Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, starring Mescal as a father who gets lost with his daughter on vacation in Turkey, premiered at Critics’ Week on Saturday. Jesse Buckley, another Irish star, will appear opposite multiple incarnations of Rory Kinnear in Alex Garland’s Men, which will receive a Fortnight special for directors.
The festival runs until May 28. Films by prestigious directors such as David Cronenberg, Claire Dennis and the Dardenne brothers are vying for the Palme d’Or, the biggest prize on the festival circuit, in the official competition. After an impressive return to work last year – an event that involved Covid testing for everyone in attendance – relative normalcy has returned to the busy streets of the Riviera.