‘Mary’ (2019) Review

“Evil needs a body to exist. The body was that boat.”

The opening drone shot of an endless sea with what looks like a boat on fire was incredible. That shot was really powerful for me. The suggestion of devastation and loss is immense. I wish this movie could have lived up to that beautiful moment of cinematography. What could have been a really amazing film, director Michael Goi’s Mary was a cheerless journey on the high seas.

Being in a sailboat out in the middle of the ocean is a terrifying premise all by itself. Once you are out there alone, if something happens, you are stuck with nowhere to go. That is one of the scariest things I can think of. Especially in an ocean that happens to be full of sharks. But Mary is no shark tale; it’s about a sailboat possessed by an angry entity, and I wouldn’t wish being trapped aboard a haunted boat on anyone.

I loved the idea and it truly seemed like Mary could be a great story. Add in a sea witch who wants to steal your family’s souls, well that’s pretty awesome. But something happened on the trip and they literally lost the wind in their sails. Even though I liked it in many ways, Mary was, unfortunately, one of my biggest disappointments this year.

I am a huge fan of Gary Oldman and Emily Mortimer has been really good in the films I’ve seen her in, so they honestly drew me towards wanting to see the film. They did not disappoint; most of the actors brought their best to this film, but I think the problem was that there was just not enough story for them to work with.

The very first scene gives us a poem about a sea witch, and that poem gives us the premise. Add in the fact that then they immediately proceed to tell us who lives and dies, then all that was left to show us, was the how.

Synopsis: David (Gary Oldman) is a struggling ship captain working in an unsatisfying job just to make ends meet. When he buys the seemingly perfect boat to captain himself, the family’s first journey becomes a nightmare.

David desperately wants a new ship. He is not happy working on a tour boat for someone else. At an auction, he is oddly drawn to a creepy old sailboat off to the side. One that we had just been shown was recently found abandoned at sea. It is ancient, weathered and damaged, plus is complete with a nude female masthead that gave me chills. It wasn’t a good decision, but something or someone speaks to David and seems to want to possess him, so he is compelled to buy the menacing vessel.

His wife Sarah (Emily Mortimer) is not happy with the purchase but knows that her hubby needs to be his own captain. She agrees to get a huge loan and prep the boat to take it out with the family for a short trial run.

The journey, seen as horrific flashbacks in Sarah’s memory as she is telling the story to the police back in Florida, paints a very grim tale. Unless she can convince the police there was a witch haunting the boat, and that she was killing them off and heading them towards the Bermuda Triangle, Sarah is up for serious murder charges. Making them understand that the “boat did it” was very daunting. As Sarah explains, “Evil needs a body to exist. The body was that boat.” I’m pretty sure they weren’t convinced.

One of the things that worked for me was the acting. Alongside our two leads, daughters Lindsey, (Stefanie Scott) and Mary, (Chloe Perring) Lindsey’s boyfriend Tommy (Owen Teague) and first mate Mike (Manuel Garcia-Fulfo) did a superb job, and I feel like the actors are the reason this film stayed afloat. (See what I did there?) Even though he was not in this film for long, Owen Teague’s performance was a standout for me.  He was great in the recent IT and I can picture him being a huge genre movie star in the future.

The cinematography was top-notch, probably because director Michael Goi is also an award-winning cinematographer. Shot on film, it was a good-looking film, and the camera work was terrific. The tiny boat on a wide and empty sea was terrifying for a landlubber like me, and the shots inside the boat were perfectly claustrophobic. Even though the boat seemed bigger on the inside than it could have been in real life.

If it looked pleasing, and the acting was excellent, why was I disappointed? First off, I was waiting throughout for the siren who obviously seduced David into buying the boat, to take him over. But the only negative action from him was the random comments that lead us to know that Sarah had recently had an affair. This part of the story was not really developed and made me wonder why it was even there. I’m not a fan of watching couples argue about their marital problems.

But, I think the main problem for me was that they gave too much info out in the first few minutes. I didn’t have anyone to worry about since I knew much of the story up-front.

Mary is a decent, nautically themed, supernatural thriller, and if you are fans of these actors, it is not a waste of time. But I hope the filmmakers learned for the next one, not to share so much right in the beginning and give the audience a chance to think for themselves. The ending was a cool twist, but not a huge reveal like it could have been.

Mary is available on DVD and Blu-ray
November 26, 2019 from RLJE Films

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