It is important to understand in this totally enchanting Irish dramedy that the Mary (Seána Kerslake) in the title is not mad in the conventional sense of the word, and this is just a label hurled at her by people who simply do not know how to cope with her wild and nonconforming spirit. She has just been released from prison after a six-month stint for a vicious attack on a girl in a nightclub and the first words we here from her mouth ‘Bout fu–ing time!’ she bellows at her mother (Denise McCormack) when she is a little late to pick her up.
Mary is due to be the Maid-of-Honor at her best friend Charlene’s (Charleigh Bailey) wedding, but Mary soon discovers that whilst life may have stood still for her when she was in prison, everyone else has moved on with theirs. There is obviously friction between Mary and the rest of the girls in the wedding party, and even Charlene is rather cold towards her creating a great deal of discomfort which often surfaces as open hostility.
Determined to be able to claim a Plus One invite for the wedding the socially awkward Mary sets about trying to find a date to accompany her to the wedding. Although it is never clear what year this story was set in, it is obviously before the advent of online dating sites, as Mary finds herself at the local matchmaking agency to try and unromantically find herself a man for just one night. Scared of losing face she almost convinces Charlene that she already has a boyfriend, but when Charlene spots him making out with another man she begins to suspect Mary’s claim and some of her other stories
Despite going on several blind dates with an assorted bunch of local men Mary fails to gel with any of them, but she does however spot someone who may do though. The problem is that she is a girl. Jess (a very impressive Tara Lee) has been hired to video Charlene’s wedding but when she and Mary lock eyes the first time there is an instant connection, although they literally dance around the idea of acting on their feelings when they keep meeting up, until one night the inevitable happens.
Despite all her bravado, there is this wonderful soft and tender side to Mary, which is so apparent when she reads the heartfelt and very emotional speech that she intends to deliver at the Wedding Reception. Charlene though cannot ease up on being a total control freak and insists that instead the other bridesmaid read the self-congratulatory speech that she had written herself, and is totally oblivious to how that hurts Mary who she still claims is her best friend.
The movie set in Drogheda one of Ireland’s oldest towns, and is the feature film directing debut of Darren Thornton who co-wrote the script with his brother Colin Thornton which they loosely adapted from Yasmine Akram’s play 10 Dates for Mad Mary. This is a compelling and very warm story of this endearing young woman whose bluff exterior is a defense mechanism against what she rightly perceives is a hostile society who simple cannot adjust to anyone like her who dares to be different. Mary sees that there never will be much opportunity to escape her working class background or this small town mentality that seems to both confine and confuse her.
Yet when she is with Jess she becomes this shy coy young woman grabbing out at this fleeting moment of happiness which she soon finds out that she is totally unqualified and unprepared to handle.
Kerslake is such a fresh breathe of air with her pitch perfect performance as Mary that is such a delight from start to finish. Whilst she has all the natural innocence of her character she somehow exudes the confidence of a a much more mature actor beyond her years. She is the main reason why this comic drama is such a sheer joy to watch.
There is wonderful gentle humor that is imbued throughout the whole movie of the type that we could only expect from an Irish film, which is yet another reason to put this one on the ‘must see’ list.