Tag Archives: George MacKay

Marrowbone (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Marrowbone Review

Director: Sergio G. Sánchez
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Stars: George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton

I’ve developed a bad habit of watching films recently that have been shoehorned into the horror genre for what I presume to be a money making exercise. Of course, they end up having a few scenes or elements to justify said shoehorning, but are really something else entirely. That’s exactly what has happened with Sergio G. Sánchez’s Marrowbone. It’s classed as a horror, but is really a psychological drama, with around three, mostly poor jump scares, added in to merit being considered one. 

I know Sánchez more for his writing on JA Bayona’s ‘The Orphanage’, he’s a very talented guy in that department and if there’s any gripes to be had with this film then it most definitely isn’t in the writing or the dialogue. This is his first non-foreign language, feature length film and I can only presume it had some bother getting a distribution deal, with production finishing back in 2017, it being given a simplistic name change over here and only now earning a wide theatrical release.

It’s about a young, orphaned, sibling quartet, who hide the death of their mother to stay together in her old, isolated and rather rickety looking, childhood farmhouse. Their father was a bit of an abusive, psycho and at the beginning his whereabouts are unknown. We have Jack (George MacKay), Billy (Charlie Heaton), Jane (Mia Goth) and Sam (Matthew Stagg). Jack is very much playing the role of the mature father figure and also has a blooming romance with Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), the Marrowbones closest neighbour and the towns librarian. 

It’s a predominately slow burn affair for nearly the entirety of the running time, following the young quartet as they deal with bangs in the attic and a bizarre, OCD like, obsession with covering every mirror in the house. Sánchez frequently has the young inhabitants interact with gaping cracks in the ceiling, for telegraphed, jump scare opportunities and just to let you know, in case you hadn’t figured it out already, that there’s something sinister occupying that bricked up space. 

There’s other things at play too though, the aforementioned romance between Allie and Jack, that comes in sporadic bursts and helps to lighten the oppressive tone that permeates the family home. Then you’ve got the bank manager, Tom (Kyle Soller), nefariously sneaking around trying his best to extort the Marrowbones for a rumoured fortune and generally creeping on Allie. Tom is an oddity of a man, arguably the biggest in the film, which is some doing amongst a film peppered with neurotic oddities. Finally, you’ve got the brewing confrontation between Jack and Billy, presumably brought on by a desire to deal with the attic situation. 

Sánchez is a gifted writer as I did say and it shows here. He explores some important themes quite intelligently, whilst slowly drip feeding the audience the truth behind Jack’s hesitancy, apparent blackouts and the mysterious guest upstairs. He does this through a series of recurring flashbacks, each delving further and revealing more of the puzzle and what a tragic puzzle it’s revealed to be. The attic twist at the end caught me off guard too, I can’t deny it. 

Why? Well, because there’s never a solid indication one way or another as to whether the presence, bumping around upstairs and causing palpable apprehension is a genuine living person or a malevolent spirit, until the twist that is. I’ve seen people criticise this film, be it the storytelling or the dialogue. I’m perplexed by the whole thing. I enjoyed that sense of ambiguity surrounding the projected reality of Jack. He’s one of three characters within Marrowbone that become the audiences perspective and I thought Sánchez utilised all of them well to reveal the heartbreaking truth.

On the contrary, I found the film to be intelligently crafted, written and visually decent. I particularly liked the moment when Jack and Allie are communicating with a morse code, light system between the two houses and the wide beach shot was stunning.

It’s not going to be getting nominated come award season, because it isn’t good enough, though if it were, then George MacKay would be the most deserving. He’s a supremely talented chap and he’s amazing as the most conflicted and emotionally multilayered man in the entire film. This is a character driven film and the performances were the highlight for me. Anya Taylor Joy is another favourite of mine, I enjoyed her in the ‘The Witch’ and she was decent here too. Charlie Heaton rounded up the notable performances from me.

In the end, it’s not the best ‘horror’ film I’ve seen this year, but it has a surprisingly enjoyable story, one brillIant performance, two decent ones and it explores the important themes of grief, mental health and the dangers of locking yourself away instead of seeking help. I enjoyed the bizarre concoction of a 60s, US, period piece intermingling with the almost Shining-esque, Kubrick distortion of the surrounding, dense woodland setting that abruptly hits an improbably close, rocky shore line. I thought it was a decent, little psychological drama in the main. 

It does strike me as a potential marmite release however, in that some audience members won’t tolerate the slow burn nature and drip feed of information. I did, but I’m maybe a rarity in that case.  

Rating: 3/5

Captain Fantastic (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Director: Matt Ross
Writer: Matt Ross
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler

Matt Ross has created something quite special in what is just his fourth film in the directors chair. The film follows the eccentric Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his young children as they live their uniquely regimented, back to basics, life of solitude in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Ben is soon forced to re-enter the wider world with his group of ragtag, commando rug-rats when a personal tragedy befalls them.

The film opens to the idyllic, beautiful, lush environments of the aforementioned wooded region and focuses in on a deer being closely tracked by the Cash clan. The animal is soon taken down in brutally impressive fashion by Bodevan ‘Bo’ Cash (George McKay); the oldest son of six children. A proud Ben makes his way across the stream to his son, declaring that “today the boy is dead, and in his place is a man”. This early scene and also the accompanying little, quick fire, montage showing the children doing their chores, some of which includes; deboning the deer carcass, fetching water and lighting a fire in the more traditional manner, perfectly illustrates the array of survivalist skills that’s been drummed into them and the off the grid, Lord of the Flies style existence they live.

Ben and his wife Leslie had decided to remove themselves and their growing young family from the increasingly chaotic, capitalist obsessed modern society, spurning the conventional education system for a home schooled program and passing on their strong humanitarian centred and socialist beliefs. They even celebrate everybody’s favourite humanitarian Noam Chomsky (I hadn’t heard of him before this if I’m honest) instead of Christmas. Despite some his parental faults of which there is more than a few, you certainly can’t argue with Ben’s teaching skills or the education his children have. He’s clearly a well educated man and even his youngest kids are able to eloquently discuss politics, which at times includes the intricacies of Fascism and Marxism, the human anatomy and various languages. Their fitness too is incredible, as the early part of the film goes out its way to highlight, with the family going for long runs, crazy burpee heavy, calisthenic exercises and a rock climbing session, the day after the kids learn their mother has died, up a sheer cliff face which nearly ends in disaster for Rellian.

Whilst Ben is clearly at home in this lifestyle, it’s pretty clear that some of his kids yearn for the outside world, particularly Bo and Rellian. This small chink of discontent is further exacerbated when Ben receives some heartbreaking news about Leslie, whilst in the middle of a trip into town. Having been away from her family for a number of months, battling bi-polar depression, she takes her own life in somewhat brutal circumstances, slitting her wrists. This moment provides the catalyst for the films story and after some dithering following a cold and threatening call with Jack, his father-in-law, both he and the children decide to go on a road trip come ‘mission’ down to New Mexico to attend their mothers funeral and also attempt to put the breaks on her burial. Leslie, you see, had left a will stating that as a believer in the Buddhist philosophy, she wanted to be cremated and that her ashes be flushed down a toilet.

The road trip portion of this film is perhaps my favourite part. There’s just so many genuinely funny, quotable moments and a fair share of poignant, emotional ones flung in for good measure. Matt Ross’ rather unsubtle attempts at social commentary, particularly prevalent at the beginning of the trip, when the kids who’re not used to the outside world, find themselves questioning the strange, new sights around them was pretty well implemented. It also provided much some decent laughs as the dumbfounded children asked their father if everyone was ill and why they were so “fat like hippos”. There was also a truly hilarious moment where Ben, always open, honest and forthright with his children, explained the meaning of rape, sexual intercourse and why a man would put his penis into a vagina to his 7 year old son after a series of quick-fire questions from the ever inquisitive young chap. But my personal favourites for sheer awkwardness and humour were Bo’s interaction with the young woman at the trailer park and Ben’s highly contrasting parenting style with his sister-in-law causing an argument over dinner.

I now understand why Viggo Mortensen got his Oscar nomination for best leading actor. He is phenomenally good in this film. He perfectly encapsulates all the little eccentric, oddities of Ben Cash’s personality, adds healthy dashes of sarcasm and humour to the character and puts in a fabulous performance. I think I could fill a review with his lines in this alone. “It’s just a penis, every man has one” is in the top three though. George McKay is a close second as the socially awkward, but academically gifted, Bodevan. There’s some fantastic moments with his character as he torments himself with the desire to leave and the plethora of acceptance letters to most of the US top colleges. He too has a standout line, where he passionately berates his dads parenting style. The rest of the actors and actresses that portrayed the children were all fantastic too. Their relationships and interactions were extremely well written and felt genuine.  If I was to pick the best of the rest then I’d have to go with a two way tie between Samantha Isler and Nicholas Hamilton as Kielyr and Rellian respectively.

The funeral doesn’t go quite to plan when Ben who’s wearing his old, painfully dated, red wedding suit, gatecrashes what is in his mind a ‘farce’, reading out Leslie’s will with an air of nonchalance and offending his father-in-law to the extent that he is removed. Ben then goes through an emotional rollercoaster almost losing his daughter, Vespyr after she falls from her grandparents roof in a reckless attempt, instigated by him, to ‘rescue’ Rellian. This causes him to have something of an epiphany, leading with him deciding to leave the children with their grandparents after earlier being threatened with losing custody and child abuse charges by Jack. He soon departs on his own after an emotional farewell, before shaving, sitting at a campfire alone, and then in a mini twist, discovering the children have snuck on board and decided to stick by him. They all decide to fulfill their mothers dying wishes and so they dig up her newly filled grave, take her away and finally lay her to rest in a traditional pyre. These final moments are particularly poignant as the children who’d been used a pawns up until that point are finally reunited with their mother.

This is honestly one of the better films I’ve seen in the last year and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it. The story is simplistic at heart, it’s essentially a fattened up road trip film, but Matt Ross ekes out some brilliant acting performances from a majority young cast, allied with great writing and dialogue, all of which is framed with some lovely visuals and a soaring, at times emotionally on point score. The cool little song sessions the family sparked into on two occasions and the way it blended into the score was quite neatly done too. It’s also has some great social commentary on the ills of today’s consumerist obsessed society and even now I’m not truly sure whether Ben Cash is the best parent in the world or committing borderline child abuse. Overall though, just a damn good film.