Cannes 2012 Preview: Jen and Sylvia Soska’s ‘American Mary’

Posted on May 21, 2012 by UK Editor

A short but sweet review from Nia Edwards-Behi

If I may indulge in some flagrant cliché abuse, the Soska Sisters are not just going places, but they’re paving the way to an exciting, vital and game-changing career in genre filmmaking. The powerhouses behind Dead Hooker in a Trunk have made their second film, American Mary, which has received its first screening at the Marche du Film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Katharine Isabelle as Mary, a broke medical student who finds herself mired in a bizarre world of underground surgery.

Mary is a completely different beast to Dead Hooker. Where Dead Hooker is a loving tribute to B-movies and grindhouse cinema, Mary is a stylish, artful and darkly funny tragedy. This difference is the Soskas’ masterstroke – even the most doubting spectator would struggle to deny the absolute versatility on display between the two films.

Mary is a significantly darker film, too. For all its laughs – and boy, are there laughs – Mary is a particularly discomforting tragedy, the Soskas’ passion for interesting storytelling as evident as their passion for genre filmmaking. The story is filled with twisted yet likeable characters, with standout performances from Katherine Isabelle as Mary and Tristan Risk as Beatress Johnson. Risk is captivating as the bizarre Beatress, with many of the film’s funniest moments emerging from her quirks. Isabelle owns the role of Mary completely and consistently confirms what an impressive actress she is. The supporting talent rounds off a cast of desirable undesirables, all monsters in their own ways – and particularly entertaining is the Soskas’ own, incredibly memorable, cameo turn. The film is an impressive feast of visuals, from grotesque prosthetic work to beautiful set design. Mary’s world may seem unfamiliar or far-fetched, but it is wholly believable.

The work on display in American Mary is that of seasoned, mature filmmakers. That this is only a sophomore effort demonstrates the absolute talent harnessed by the Soska sisters. This is the most original film I’ve seen for a very long time, and I can’t help but feel that the Soskas have the potential to lead the way in an enlivening of genre filmmaking. American Mary deserves an incredibly wide release; its story as accessible to non-genre fans as it is satisfying for those of us who love the darker parts of cinema, and impressive for anyone who claims to be a fan of cinema.

Keep your eyes peeled for news on American Mary’s future release.