Mary for Mayor takes on an interesting idea — that a daughter runs for mayor of a small town against her father — and brings some intriguing ideas out of that concept. Co-written and co-directed by Corbin Bernsen (Chris Aronoff also directed), the setting is Echo Harbor, a great family town that features the Sunnyside home for the elderly and Smithfield ice cream shop, in addition to the Wharf Hill store, run by a lady named Olivia Warfield (Amanda Pays). Olivia likes to restore things, such as household items. She would like to see Echo Harbor restored, but Mary’s dad, Mayor Rob Parsons, seems to favor closing a few of the cherished businesses.
Family matters are very much a part of the story. Mary’s dad left home a couple of years prior to live with his father when his mother died. But he also was unhappy at home, and yet, his wife has remained faithful, keeping the household going while helping Mary, now a senior in high school, plan her future. Mary often has conflict with her dad when they are in the same room together. She is, however, close to her grandfather, the local pastor (played by Bernsen). Her grandfather confides in her that he has wanted to preach a sermon on forgiveness at their local church for a long while but he can’t seem to bring himself to do it. (We later learn why forgiveness is so important to him, as it involves a personal matter.)
With Mary’s passion for the local town’s people bolstering her resolve, as well as the encouragement of her fellow students, she decides to run for mayor — against her father. Rob believes his daughter is just doing it because she’s upset with him, but she admits that while this is true — she truly wants to save the town, something she believes her father doesn’t care about. Rob seems all right with letting the nursing home and ice cream shop close; his plan is to get behind a mall being built in a city nearby in order to gain the overflow of people to Echo Harbor. But, as one elderly woman who lives in Sunnyside says, “This is our home!”
The film not only features the family dynamics, but a bit of romance as one of the high school seniors, Jordan, likes Mary and gets behind her campaign. The movie also includes some humorous scenes, one of which occurs when Rob is trying to tell his daughter that she needs to let the past go. He jokes that they should bring Blockbuster back and everyone “should have to watch movies on video tape.” “What’s Blockbuster?” asks Mary.
Mary is hurt that her father doesn’t seem to care about her original plans to go to California to attend college. She had hoped he would travel with her during the move and would see her new surroundings. He sarcastically snaps, “She needs her daddy to run off to California with her,” which cuts her. To his credit, he realizes he went too far and immediately apologizes.
The story is nicely written and the actors perform well. At one point, the story takes a twist that I wasn’t sure would work, but it turns out very well and was a creative way to bring the story to its conclusion. The themes of forgiveness, restoration, and caring about people are nicely handled in the film.
In one memorable scene, Mary’s father refers to her as just a “young girl”, but then fellow students remind him that Joan of Arc was just a young girl, as was Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth the First. Another nice scene is when Mary and her fellow students literally clean up the town, taking brooms and garbage bags to the city streets to tidy up the town.
The film does a good job in showcasing that it’s easy to become complacent, like Mary’s father, but also makes the case that the challenges of leading can be more difficult than an inexperienced person like Mary may suspect. And even Mary isn’t always noble, as she temporarily gets caught up with an “image” when she’s given a budget for new clothes and a makeover.
This film does a credible job in showing that everyone is important and that forgiveness is something that, as one character says, needs to be practiced every morning and every evening. And an elderly woman has a pivotal scene which shows how the experience of the elderly can be utilized in life’s situations.
We are awarding our Dove seal to the film for All Ages. Who wins the race? Will father and daughter continue to work against each other? The movie does indeed resolve all the plotlines. And it features a great line of advice: If you can find what makes you tick, then the path will follow.
The Dove Take:
Mary for Mayor does a terrific job in showing how people working together can make necessary changes happen– and grow as people in the process.