Sunday, March 27 @ 4:00pm  |  Brattle Theatre

2016 | USA | 84 minutes
Directors: Robert G. Putka
Screenwriters: Robert G. Putka

Cast: Jennifer Lafleur, Eilis Cahill, Maryann Plunkett

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When recently-divorced matriarch Mel (Maryann Plunkett) is admitted to the hospital after a nervous breakdown, daughters Connie (Jennifer LaFleur) and Casey (Eilis Cahill) roll their eyes with abject annoyance. Type-A Connie and aimless Casey have their own lives. And dealing with mom’s mental illness may just reveal their complete inability to take responsibility for their own issues. Issues that include complicity in white collar crime and cam girl self-denial, respectively.

During the Cold War, MAD referred to mutually-assured destruction—the threat of two or more opposing parties’ warring tendencies to end not with a winner, but complete and total annihilation. Here the term is deftly applied to the nuclear family, as mother and sisters arm themselves with bitter barbs and stubborn isolationism to further erode an already fractious relationship.

Connie, a type-A matriarch and working mother, believes herself to be the only one in the family with her shit in order; aimless, apathetic Casey has only recently graduated into the world of adulthood and looks for ways to get by and find connection, mostly via webcam. While Mel contends with group therapy and communes with fellow patients even more unstable than she, Connie’s life begins to unravel as a white lie is supplanted by white collar crime.

Writer-director Robert G. Putka draws from his own volatile relationship with his mother, as well as the sense of purposelessness one feels when you’re not moving forward with your life. And as Mel’s psych ward friendship with Jerry (standout Mark Reeb) reminds us—maybe we’re all just fuckups desperately trying to keep it together.

Family dysfunction is a slow-growing tumor that festers with every passive aggressive attack on one’s life choices, or thinly-veiled barb referencing a long-past transgression. There’s never just one thing. Don’t expect specifics as to exactly how the relationship between these three women became so fractured. None of it matters. More than anything, MAD is an often abrasive, sad, and laugh-out-loud allegory of how ruminative self-hatred can paralyze completely, and transform us into unrelenting assholes to those who love us most.

Melinda Green


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