When Lankum released their sombre interpretation of ‘The Wild Rover’, they reframed a set of folk lyrics that roused pubs for generations. Ironically, its origins as a temperance song had all but vanished beneath the stomping chorus of ‘no, nay, never, no more.’ So, in the absence of that hook, the band essentially introduced to listeners to the Prodigal Son all over again. Except now, the protagonist’s return felt less joyous, with his scandalous days lurking behind him like a sorrowful ghost.
In God’s Creatures, directed by Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer, the Rover is similarly reappraised, with his homecoming told from his mother’s perspective. Set in a western fishing village, it follows Aileen (Emily Watson), the manager at a fish-processing plant, whose son Brian (Paul Mescal) has unexpectedly come home from Australia. As vague on why he returned, as he is on why he migrated, Brian insists that he wants to revive the family’s defunct oyster-farming business. However, as he begins to build this new life, a local woman, Sarah (Aisling Franciosi) steps forward, accusing him of sexual assault.
Desperate to see the good in Brian, Aileen provides him a false alibi. It isn’t that she believes in his innocence. Rather, she wants to believe in it. But, as her lie makes Sarah a pariah, Aileen is forced to question who her son truly is.
God’s Creatures is a slow-burning study on the conspiracy of silence that allows abuse to persist within a community. Framed initially as the Prodigal Son’s redemption, the film almost encourages viewers to side with Brian, dismissing Sarah as a narrative hindrance. It is only as her agony seeps into the dream that we are made to see how reality is denied, if only just to protect the most romanticised version of a beloved tale.
Words: Michael Lanigan
Director: Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer
Talent: Emily Watson, Paul Mescal, Aisling Franciosi
Release Date: March 31