Georgia Parris (director)
21 June 2019 (released)
19 June 2019
Charlotte (Bobbi Jene Smith) is a successful dancer and choreographer preparing for her new show in London. And so Mari opens in rehearsals with a long sequence and some brilliant inter-dancer camera work from Adam Scarth. This sets the film (and the viewer up) for the rest of the film as director and writer Georgia Parris tries to blend dance with the narrative to convey deep and complex emotions.
On hearing the news of her grandmothers worsening condition Charlotte journeys to Dorset to meet up with her sister Lauren (Madeline Worrall) and their mother Margot (Phoebe Nicholls) who are already with the dying Mari (Paddy Glynn).
The reunion is strained as Charlotte has drifted from the family and resentment has set in though this is mostly between her and Lauren with them tense and close to breaking point. There’s a further complication in that Charlotte discovers she is pregnant which forces her to confront the situation facing with her family. Initially she is resolute and in no doubt about what to do but questions arise as she contemplates the loss of her grandmother.
Mari has all the ingredients of a powerful and moving story of an estranged family pulled back together by events. However while the situation is a desperately sad one, dealing with grief and the frightening inevitability of death and needing a sensitive hook into the viewer, it’s a cold, remote film.
The sparse script leaves many gaps and some scenes look to play too long. These taken with the functional direction and a bland colour palette there’s an overwhelming tiredness about the narrative element of the production.
Which is in complete contrast to the highly imaginative dance sequences choreographed by Maxine Doyle that intersperse the film. The trouble is, as good as they are, they don’t balance well with the narrative, leaving the overwhelming feeling that the non-dance sequences were something of an afterthought.
Georgia Parris has assembled an experienced cast apart from Bobbi Jene Smith (a critically acclaimed dancer and choreographer) who makes a solid debut. I didn’t dislike the film but just didn’t feel involved or have much empathy with characters or storyline. For all the innovative dance sequences and florid camera work in Mari, it is a very frustrating film that doesn’t quite find its true emotional depth.