DIR: Colm Quinn
After legging it around the city like a headless you-know-what because I had confused myself about the location of this screening when it was in fact the date I got wrong, my sympathiser and an all-round super sound girl (from the Lighthouse box-office) informed me that Element were having a screening that very evening at Mattress Mick’s Pearse street store. Just when all seemed lost, when I was preparing to shuttle away to Smithfield square for a good mope, the single best way I could ever have experienced this documentary presented itself. On a mattress in Mattress Mick’s shop, hobnobbing with the film’s ordinary subjects. The Universe does indeed work in mysterious ways…
The shop is… different. Even without the balloon pillars or the floor-standing speakers blasting passers-by, or the life-size cutouts of the man himself, the shop would be very easily made out by its vivid pink, yellow and purple exterior. Mick Flynn, or Mattress Mick, stands proudly out-front, smiling and willing and proud of his now small but rejuvenated empire. He and his family are well known in the area, going back through generations and an assortment of trades, and, if the locals are anything to go by, he is better identified in these parts by his reputable humour than his “rare” look.
I’d like not to give a scene by scene here as much as I’ll try to engage with the film’s significance, it’s timeliness, and it’s probable that the whole country will see this one anyway. Invited inside the now-famous store, ushered by the informality of what feels like a family gathering, everyone is beaming. Paul Kelly, Micks’ good friend and the driving force behind his online persona gives me a preview of a song he convinced Richie Kavannagh to write for and about Mick, a show of his endless enthusiasm for Mick’s success and the opportunity therein for his own. Director Colm Quinn may have struck lucky for his first feature documentary, and perhaps his subjectivity too.
The chance for opportunity forms a huge part of this story, and the film equally follows Paul’s journey through his own reinvention after being made redundant twice, going through a painful separation at the same time as fending off debt collectors. Fed up and working part-time for Mick, he decides to invest what little capital he has in his own venture, Shoot Audition, some green screen and basic shooting equipment, you know the rest. Hilarious scenes of Mick’s outright discomfort feature throughout, of him making a “fool” of himself “in front of people he knows”, clear insecurities of a local man poo-pooed by Paul’s pure determination to see his vision through, with all the spirit and goodwill akin to old friends. It’s the kind of anomalous relationship you’d find yourself continuously smiling at because as a pair they are as unlikely as they are committed.
From the “Back with a Bang” videos conception to its end, this film is the tale of triumph in the face of imminent bankruptcy, avoided by a remarkable duo who come together, almost serendipitously after years of not meeting, to save each other’s skin. There are moments of pure, raw emotion, particularly when Paul talks about getting his family out of their tiny inner-city apartment to a better life, or where Mick talks about selling his family home to pay off debts. This story is as human as it gets, and reflexive documentary aims at its best to capture the times we live in, the way we are in our worst and best moments, and relay them so simplistically that we can only see ourselves reflected; Quinn does this well.
That’s what this film exudes – tenacity, and it’s a welcome addition to this golden era of Irish documentary. Filmed over three years, it captures in painful and sometimes revelatory detail the hardships brought on by austerity, the challenges faced by people and the reconciliatory role that laughter and positivity play, much called upon coping mechanisms of the past decade.
Colm Quinn’s film is more than the success story of a salesman turned internet star/national treasure, it’s a warm and familiar story of nationhood and, it has to be said, success!
15A (See IFCO for details)
Mattress Men is released 7th October 2016