What does it take to really know your children? Does a mother know her son best as a baby, newly born and still as much a part of her as he is himself, or do time and age bridge the generational gap in a way plain old love never could? In the first trailer for A24's God’s Creatures, which debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, an even more murky possibility appears: perhaps, you only know your children once you accept you may never have known them at all.
Directed by filmmakers Saela Davis & Anna Rose Holmer, God’s Creatures sets its scene in a blustery Irish fishing town, where the wind is a regular topic of conversation and black waves never cease to lap against the rocky coast. The roots in this town are both deep and gnarled, it seems, regardless of how much has changed over time. “I suppose every house around here has the same ghosts,” Sarah Murphy (Aisling Franciosi) says between cigarette drags as she visits Aileen O’Hara’s (Emily Watson) home after a funeral.
Come to find out, Aileen’s most prominent ghost comes in the form of her prodigal adult son, Brian (Normal People’s Paul Mescal), who returns to the village and his childhood bedroom after an extended absence. Aileen is gobsmacked to see him and quickly gets to mothering, even though her friends remark that Brian seems “different.” The comment takes on a very different meaning, however, when an officer appears at Aileen’s door one night asking about Brian; a young woman has made a “serious” accusation against him, and Brian’s alibi is a night in with Aileen. After a pause, she says yes—but as Sarah later knowingly remarks, “You know that’s a lie, right?”
So where was Brian? The thick, spiny tension the two-and-a-half minute trailer methodically heightens hinges on the fact that in her heart, Aileen has no idea. She knows she’s compromising her morality, and maybe her community, to protect him—she’s just not certain from what. The teaser finds success by limiting second-half plot details and avoiding specifics, never even revealing what exactly Brian has been accused of. In leaving the audience as out of the loop as Aileen herself, God’s Creatures seems to stay true to genre— after all, there are few narrative tools as useful in a rural gothic drama as a good thinly-veiled secret.
God’s Creatures is set to release in theaters on September 30.