SOMEONE in Molly McGlynn’s film Mary Goes Round compares addiction to being on a ‘fucked-up merry-go-round that you can’t get off.’ A clever – and sticking – analogy for the circular nature of addiction that McGlynn draws upon until the final frame of her film.
Mary, played by an outstanding Aya Cash, is a 29-year-old living in Toronto who is stuck in a viscous cycle of alcoholism. We are introduced to her as she moves from one low point to another – embarrassing herself at a baby shower and waking up with random bruises or next to guys she hardly knows.
Alcohol is causing her life to spiral out of control. Yet the cruel irony of Mary’s situation is that she works as an addiction counsellor. Mary wants to help others – and she has tools to do so – but she is in desperate need of help herself.
It is only when Mary hits rock bottom – a drink-driving incident – that her path changes, bringing her to Niagara Falls to visit estranged father Walt (John Ralston) and 16-year-old half-sister Robyn (star-in-the-making Sara Waisglass).
It is here Mary must confront issues of shame, family trauma and forgiveness as she looks to repair her life. As she puts it: ‘Good people do shitty things and then they fix it.’
A lot of McGlynn’s film is spent in drab settings such as AA meetings and hospital rooms. But these locations make the beauty of McGlynn’s tenderly written characters stand out just like the majesty of The Falls. In the final seconds of the film McGlynn uses a similar contrast between muted settings and bright lights for one of the finest small-scale endings you will witness. A hair-raising and well-earned finale.
Mary Goes Round is the work of a detailed and thoughtful filmmaker who fosters a genuineness that permeates through all of her characters and every scene. Cash is the on-screen heartbeat of this as she gives Mary vulnerability while retaining a spirit and charm that leaves you willing her to pull through.
The scenes between Mary and Robyn are also a highlight. As Walt points out, Robyn is the only member of the family still on the straight and narrow – with a scholarship to NYU on the horizon. Mary recognises that Robyn represents an opportunity to break the cycle of family disappointments and the two start to build a heartening relationship. But not before Robyn has thrown a few amusing jabs – asking Mary whether she is going through her ‘Britney 2007 moment’.
Mary Goes Round is a sincere and touching ride well worth taking. One of Close-up Culture’s favourite films of the year so far. We strongly suggest you give it a try.
This was review 15/30 in the April’s Close-up Culture Monthly Film Challenge – Female Filmmakers.