GFF Review: God’s Creatures


Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer


Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi, Declan Conlon, Marion O’Dwyer and Toni O’Rourke



In a windswept fishing village, a mother is torn between protecting her beloved son and her own sense of right and wrong.

God’s Creatures is an Irish psychological drama written by Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly and Shane Crowley, and is directed by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer. Set on a remote Irish fishing village, we follow Aileen O’Hara, who works at the seafood processing plant who, when attending a funeral, is blindsided by the return of her son Brian, who had moved to Australia years ago. Welcomed back with open arms, Brian looks to restart the family oyster farm, which has been abandoned during the period he’s been away. However, when a sexual assault charge is levelled against Brian, Aileen’s blind loyalty to her son causes a ripple effect that threatens to tear apart their close-knit community.

Filmed in County Donegal, what immediately stood out in the film was the cinematography work by Chayse Irvin, as well as the direction from Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer. The village and to its surroundings is beautifully captured, and the way that the close-up shots on the actors to capture their expressions of lust, anguish, grief, and anger. There is certainly no better actress to convey emotion without uttering a single word in Emily Watson. and I thought she gave a terrific performance Aileen. She gives a terrific performance as Aileen, a mother so steadfast in her loyalty to her son that she immediately, without hesitation, lies in order to defend him on his whereabouts on the night that the alleged sexual assault took place, but over the course of the film we begin to see cracks in armour as Aileen becomes riddled with guilt and fear that her son may not be the good boy that she believes he is.


Paul Mescal has been rapidly on the rise to global stardom, from his breakout role of the limited series Normal People a few years ago, to recently earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Aftersun. Brian is someone who doesn’t say a whole lot, but his demeanour and the way that he carries himself, with every chuckle followed by a quick smirk or smile, you can’t help but feel initially that something feels off about him, and Mescal gives a good performance in the role. With the limited screen time that she has, Aisling Franciosi also gives a really good performance as Sarah Murphy, the woman who is accusing Brian of sexual assault and also happens to Aileen’s co-worker and daughter Erin’s best friend. From the rest of the supporting cast, I must mention that Toni O’Rourke’s performance as Erin, Aileen’s daughter and Brian’s bother, stood out for me as she’s involved in some very good, important scenes and she delivers some really good lines in them, particularly in one she shares with Mescal’s Brian in calling out his return and the treatment he’s receiving.


What helps create such a gothic atmosphere to this story is the score provided by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, as their work provides that lingering sense of dread in the village that adds to the tone of the film. The sound department also deserves a special mention as well for their work, particularly in the sequences set at the plant as the sound of the oyster shells bouncing on the belts of the machines being heavily focused on during the most anxiety induced moments for certain characters. As good as the film is, it will certainly not be for everybody. The film will go one of two ways for viewers: The film is either too ambiguous in its storyline, or the film is not as ambiguous as it thinks it is. On the former, certain elements of the story are left for the viewer to figure out for themselves, such as why did Brian leave the village and go as far as Australia in the first place? Why now after so long away did he return now all of a sudden? Why is there such strange friction between Brian and his father/Aileen’s husband Con? And those lingering questions and lack of resolution for them might be annoying to some. On the latter, the story’s ambiguity about the O’Hara’s past doesn’t really feel important in the grand scheme of things, as it’s more focused on Aileen’s plight.



God’s Creatures is a beautifully shot film, well directed by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer, with a captivating lead performance from Emily Watson and a solid performance by Paul Mescal, with a musical score that will get under your skin just as much as the mature content of the film will do.