God’s Creatures Screening at Jacob Burns and Review


Q&A with directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer

James Steigerwald and Leanna Ward


On September 19th, the Jacob Burns Film Center held a screening of the unreleased film God’s Creatures, with a Q&A with both of the film’s directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer afterward. 

God’s Creatures is a psychological drama set in a small Irish fishing town. Aileen O’Hara, played by Emily Watson, is a mother who struggles with her inner morals and guilt, as she is torn between her dearest son, or what’s right and wrong. The film is overlaid with a dark, melancholic tone as the consequences and emotional weight of the situation come to the center. 

The film’s core is centered around morality. Aileen’s son Brian, played by Paul Mescal, returns home unexpectedly after being away in Australia for around 10 years. From the moment he returns, we quickly learn how strong the bond between him and his mother is. Though with his arrival, there seems to be a looming tension among the family. 

Brian ends up facing an accusation from a family friend, and Aileen lies to protect him. We witness how this decision tears the family apart. Her sense of right and wrong is clouded by the love she has for her son, who she hasn’t seen in so long. She consistently struggles to see with eyes that aren’t her own. 

The first half of this movie does drag on quite a bit in the first half, as it takes a while for the accusations to be brought forward, and Aileen’s inner conflict to begin. While the build-up is a little too long, it almost becomes worth it when the emotional climax is reached. It just feels so well-earned.

This movie touches on how society oftentimes is prone to its disbelief of women. Sarah represents all the women who have been confronting abuse their whole life, and how some have come forward. Stepped out of the darkness to speak out and make a difference.

Something particularly great about this movie is their tendency to show, rather than tell. With only facial expressions, the actors were able to convey how they felt in that moment perfectly. You’re able to feel the emotional impact of it all. Adding any sort of dialogue to these scenes would be doing it a disservice.

The score and cinematography are incredible, and how well they coincided with one another is impressive. The score really adds to the dark tone of the movie, giving off an eerily curious, almost discomforting presence. Paired with the dramatic cinematography of the Irish landscapes, with beautiful mountainscapes and large waves crashing against the shore, it plays in perfectly to the film’s melodrama. 

The film is admirable for the questions it raises. Questions about morality, loyalty, and family. It’s highly recommended you go see it for yourselves because it is most definitely worth it

After the screening, there was the Q&A with co-directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer. The directors were asked questions about artistic choices they made for the film, how they got to direct the film, and even some philosophical questions about the themes and lessons of the story.

As for how Davis and Holmer got involved in the project, they said they were shown the script from a producer and immediately the themes of the films struck them, specifically with the character Aileen. 

Aileen would do anything for her son then had a dramatic change from this when events arose that made her question his morality. This raises the question of what makes a person do something like that, and that was a question Davis and Holmer wanted to explore. 

Further exploring themes, Holmer spoke about the parallel of men and women in town and how drastically different their lives were but also how similar they were in certain ways. Both men and women in this town endured physical labor, but different kinds. The women in addition to this did the invisible work of being a woman, caregiving.

The project was brought to Holmer and Davis around the time of the Brett Kavanaugh allegations, furthering the story’s relevance.

A question about the motives behind cinematography was raised, Davis responded with a connection of cinematography of nature to the plot saying, “the violence of the sea reflects the violence of the place and the men.”

God’s Creatures comes out on September 30th in the United States.