Maggie May


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Maggie May
"To the extent that it's successful, this is thanks to McClatchy, who manages to make Maggie completely believable even in the most absurd situation." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

A death is the family brings out the best and the worst in people's manners. It has to go smoothly; nobody wants a scene. Nobody really wants to think about the details - it seems better to set aside the distressing parts and just focus on the positive of having everybody together into one roof. Nobody wants to pry into the details of what happened. Maggie (Lulu McClatchy) is understandably upset. After all, she's the one who still lived with Mum. It's understandable that she felt overwhelmed and didn't know what to do. And she didn't actually do anything wrong.

Queen Elizabeth I of England's motto was: 'When in doubt, do nothing.' There are certain parts of society that have never let go of that certainty that there are no sins of omission, that the only bad deeds are active ones. Mia Kate Russell's short takes that way of thinking to blackly comic extremes. In this comfortable suburban space, all beige and magnolia, she finds an everyday darkness which, whilst obviously satirical, points up the still more horrific realities of everyday neglect.

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Sam (Katrina Mathers) has fled a different kind of violence, bringing her twin babies to the funeral and planning to stay in Mum's house until she can sort out somewhere new to live. Maggie, who vaguely resents the gathering as an interruption of her time in front of the television with snacks, accepts her presence as a mild nuisance, getting back to her routine. She won't interfere. But neither will she do anything - anything at all - when Sam has a horrific accident. After all, it wasn't her fault.

It's a difficult narrative to pull off in deadpan style. To the extent that it's successful, this is thanks to McClatchy, who manages to make Maggie completely believable even in the most absurd situation. Her performance attracted praise at the 2019 Fantasia international Film Festival, where the film recently screened. A comment about anxiety seems misplaced, perhaps pandering to prejudice - Maggie doesn't come across as anxious but there are plenty of people with real problems stereotyped as behaving like she does. The question that lingers, touched on only in the opening scene, is why nobody has recognised the extent of Maggie's psychopathology before or endeavoured to do anything about it. Her utter failure to take responsibility wouldn't seem to absolve everyone else. Nevertheless, this is a pointed look at the kind of danger that can lurk in the most disarming of places and the polite disavowal that allows it to thrive.

Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2019
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Maggie May packshot
Two estranged sisters, Sam and Maggie, attempt to reconnect after the death of their mother. But Maggie isn't interested in anything and that could be Sam's worst nightmare.

Director: Mia'kate Russell

Writer: Mia'kate Russell

Starring: Lulu McClatchy, Katrina Mathers, Sophia Davey

Year: 2018

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: Australia

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