The Daisy Chain
Directed by Aisling Walsh. Starring Samantha Morton, Steven Mackintosh, Tomas Conroy, Mhairi Anderson, David Bradley. 15a Cert. Cork Omniplex; Savoy, Dublin; Galway Omniplex, 89 min
BARELY A month goes by without a scary child movie opening in Irish cinemas. In the last few weeks we’ve had the cheesy Case 39and the genuinely unhinged Dorothy Mills. Last year, the rather splendid Orphanbrightened up the summer. Who’d have thought possessed infants would be this decade’s must-have accessory?
The latest entry to the genre pulls at certain troubling threads in folk culture. Samantha Morton and Steven Mackintosh play Martha and Tomas, a couple who – shades of Don’t Look Now– have retired to a remote Irish village following the death of their baby daughter. Martha is pregnant again and they are cautiously looking forward to a period of isolated regeneration. But archetypal spooky maniacs are lurking in the hedgerows.
Things begin to turn properly weird when a neighbour’s house burns to the ground, leaving a child, Daisy (Mhairi Anderson) mysteriously alive. Martha takes Daisy, who appears to be autistic, into her home, but fails to establish an entirely happy household. Everywhere Daisy goes disaster follows, and the unsophisticated citizens reveal their suspicions that the child is a changeling.
The Daisy Chainhas much to recommend it (the performance by young Anderson is particularly strong) but, as events progress, warring objectives threaten to tear the piece apart. Utilising old-school growling from reliable David Bradley, Aisling Walsh, director of Song for a Raggy Boy, does a decent job of setting down post- Wicker Mangothic roots.
There is, however, something else going on. In times past, rural communities really did believe that children with learning difficulties were possessed. Does the film concern a malign being who has hoodwinked a vulnerable woman? Are we looking at an autistic child who is grievously misunderstood? Can the film really be saying something utterly barmy about all those who have that condition? Who knows? The picture’s muddled conclusion leaves us in very murky narrative territory. The more you think about it, the more dubious it seems.