Review by Sean Boelman
Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits was one of the best independent films of the past decade, and for her next directorial outing, she partnered with her co-writer Saela Davis. While God’s Creatures maintains much of the same low-key vibe, it’s far less compelling due to poor pacing and the difficulty of understanding its cast’s accents.
The movie tells the story of a community in a seaside fishing town as they are rocked by the return of the son of one of the town’s matriarchs, which soon causes tragic events to take hold. It’s a pretty straightforward morality tale — a story of “will they or won’t they?” — and it fails to explore its themes in a way that adds anything new to the conversation.
Unfortunately, the biggest issue with the film is that it does not have a whole lot going on in terms of its plot. It seems like this is the type of movie that wants to be a slow-burn thriller, but there isn’t enough tension to keep the audience's interest. Once it finally reaches the “payoff,” viewers will be left feeling more frustrated than anything.
This also gives way to another issue with the film: thin character development. Because there isn’t much forward movement in the movie’s arcs, the characters are given very weak motivations. Obviously, the protagonist is torn between her loyalty to her son and her morality, but that is the only legitimate arc in the film.
There is one obstacle to enjoyment of the movie that many audiences may suffer from: the actors’ accents are extraordinarily thick and often difficult to understand. All of the cast is speaking in a heavy Irish accent, and even as someone who is typically able to understand accents, it was difficult to understand a solid 75% of what was being said in the film. Granted, audiences who are able to watch the movie with subtitles won’t suffer from this and might be able to enjoy it more.
Beyond that, the actors are giving pretty strong performances. Emily Watson is transfixing in her lead role — even if it is hard to understand exactly what she is doing and saying, the emotional power behind it is evident. In the supporting cast, Paul Mescal, who is having quite a year, gives a memorable turn, managing to be both charming and mysteriously sinister at the same time. On the opposite end of the coin, Asiling Franciosi (The Nightingale) isn’t given enough to make much of an impact.
The one thing that is beyond reproach in the film is its visuals. It’s a seaside noir, a stylistic approach that has been experiencing a sort of renaissance, and Holmer and Davis create a wonderful atmosphere for the movie. A big part of this is thanks to gorgeous cinematography by Chayse Irvin, capturing the English seaside.
God’s Creatures isn’t a bad film, but it’s not particularly memorable aside from a couple of decent performances and some strong visuals. That being said, if you are able to understand more of the movie through its cast’s accents, you might have a better appreciation of what it has to offer.
God’s Creatures hits theaters and VOD on September 30.