Directed by CHRISTY GARLAND
In Georgetown, Guyana, we meet Mary, a charming 74 year old poet with a brilliant wit – and a very serious drinking problem. Muscle, her son, strives mightily to lift his family out of poverty and into the middle class. He worries his mother’s drinking will have her end up in hospital. He decides that the only way to protect her is to act as her jailor and have her locked in her room for most of her days. What may appear to be a story of a brutal, controlling son and a drunk, pathetic old woman, is actually the story of an incredibly courageous family living in poverty and fighting to rid themselves of the shackles of their past.
Muscle is a busy man. He has his eye fixed firmly on the middle class, hoping to pull his extended family up with him. In the meantime, his birds need constant attention, as he ekes out a living raising fighting songbirds. And he’s trying, not very successfully, to get his mother Mary off the booze. Mary has had a number of falls on her frequent “escapes” outside the family compound, searching for drink. She drinks to forget, in particular to drown out the night, which she has good reason to dread. She’s still able to recite by heart some of her moving poems, to her family who listen with love and admiration. But her determination to thwart Muscle, and his flawed attempts to control her drinking, has led her son to take more drastic action.
But what has brought them to this crisis point? As their brutal, harrowing and loving story unfolds we’ll hear of a past dominated by Muscle’s father, an extremely violent man that Mary left after years of abuse and unspeakable horrors inflicted on her children.
Mary tells us she knows that she’s dying, and isn’t afraid – she even makes one of her silly jokes about it. In this way, she seems finally free when Muscle’s worst fear comes true. With her love, poetry, humor and grit, she has given Muscle the resilience to fight the demons of the past, and “keep his family close”.
This is an emotional journey that illustrates class struggles and the hardship of poverty, making this a documentary film that will make the subtly political seem deeply personal. Although their world is unlike anything you’ve every seen – Mary and Muscle’s efforts to live life on their own terms are comical, courageous, flawed, heart-breaking, but ultimately uplifting and life affirming – just like many families.