MOLLY McGlynn is the Toronto-based director behind touching drama Mary Goes Round. The film, starring Aya Cash and Sara Waisglass, will screen as part of the Canada Now film festival this month.
Close-up Culture spoke to Molly about her impressive debut-feature, female perspectives, personal feedback to the film and much more.
Q: Mary Goes Round deals with addiction, family and forgiveness. What led you to write this story?
A: IN some ways, the culmination of my entire life led to this story – experiences with family misunderstandings, sister relationships, loss, estrangement and forgiveness.
I wanted to write a film about a father and daughter, but funnily enough it ended up being about sisters. The father becomes the connection between these two characters, half-sisters, who are forced to confront the other and decide what they want to make of their circumstances.
Q: Smashed and Suck It Up Buttercup are a couple of the films in recent years to deal with addiction through a female lead character. What do you think this female perspective brings to the film and to the subject?
A: I LOVED Smashed although I have yet to see Suck It Up Buttercup – but I will now!
First of all, I think there is an enormous range of addictions. Though I do not identify as an alcoholic, there have been moments in my past when I had to kind of check myself with what was bordering on self-destructive behaviour.
A lot of time in film, we see women guzzling wine by the jug, usually in broad comedies a la Bad Moms, Bridesmaids and Rough Night. It is so much fun to watch, but if you unpack it all, it starts to be a little bit concerning.
Why are women drinking this much? What is it in their-our lives that is so overwhelming that alcohol becomes the main form of release and connection?
I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with drinking. I just think it is important to look at why and how people drink. I think men and women have different patterns of using alcohol and I think there is something a little taboo or “wrong” still about women with addiction issues.
In some ways, the recklessness and wildness associated with alcoholism and women is the antithesis to the tight control and order that a lot of women can exert on their complex lives. I kind of get it.
Q: The film has a tremendous cast led by Aya Cash. Can you tell us about working with Aya and with Sara Waisglass and what they brought to the project?
A: I CANNOT speak more highly about these women. Aya Cash is someone whose work I fell in love with on the series You’re The Worst. There was a storyline in Season 2 where the character she plays is in a deep depression and I was blown away by the authenticity and depth she brought to it. She is multi-dimensional and complex and intelligent and I just had a hunch that instinctively she would know how to balance the light and darkness of playing Mary, a reckless alcoholic who is also trying to do good – and be good.
Sara, who plays Robyn, is such an exciting young talent. I cast her off a self-tape. She has this huge expressive brown eyes that are both childlike and oddly wise – which is exactly what Robyn is. I use my instincts when casting and Sara and Aya just spoke to my gut.
Q: I imagine this film will have touched many people on a personal level – myself included. Have you received a lot of personal feedback on the film?
A: I HAVE. There have been a few comments from strangers after screenings that have really stuck with me. Recently, an older, very glamorous woman came up to me and said she had been thirty years sober and that her parents were also addicts and that I really captured what that experience was like. A response like that is precisely why I want to make films.
I want someone to come out of a screening feeling like a part of them or their identity has been seen or understood and they can be accepted for it. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Q: Mary Goes Round will be shown as part of the Canada Now Festival. Can you tell us what it means to you to be a Canadian filmmaker?
A: I DO not necessarily think of my nationality in connection with my filmmaking, but I can whole-heartedly say that being Canadian has offered me tremendous access to funding and opportunities (hello Telefilm Canada) that have changed my life. I feel so privileged to be from a country that respects and fosters new talent.
Q: What is the current environment for Canadian filmmakers? Are there opportunities for female filmmakers?
A: I HAVE had amazing opportunities in both film and television in the past year – so yes! That is obviously an incredibly biased response, but it is the truth.
The filmmaking community in Canada always has an ongoing dialogue about how things could be better and more inclusive and I think that is great. It’s an ongoing process and it is not perfect, but I like that slowly I am seeing more women and people of colour make waves.
Q: You wrote a fantastic piece for TIFF about the slew of rejections an ‘emerging’ filmmaker can face (click to read). What would your words of wisdom be to a young filmmaker?
A: YOU are never going to be fully ready. Do it anyway. Have a life. If you do not have a life, you cannot have a point of view of the world which is integral to making good work.
Q: What stories do you want to tell and is there anyone in particular you would love to work with?
A: I WANT to tell stories about people – ideally women who are facing uncomfortable truths about their life and-or identity. I am fascinated by the process of seeing someone become who they are and what notions of themselves they must discard to find their truth.
I have been so lucky to work with amazing people already, but if there is anyone in the world I would want to work with I would probably say Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Kristen Wiig.