Mattress Men – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Colm Quinn
Part of the IFI Documentary Film Festival – 22nd to 25th of Sept
On viewing this quirky offering the proverb “Necessity is the mother of invention” springs to mind quickly followed by the Wilde witticism “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about and that is not being talked about.” When the recession hit in 2008, Michael Flynn’s business of retailing bedroom furniture like much else in Ireland took a big knock. He was between a rock and a hard place. Paul Kelly, an aspiring film maker in even more dire financial straits, persuaded him to let him make some promotional videos to help put the floundering business back on its feet. So was created “Mattress Mick” in the form of Brian Traynor who is encased in a mattress on the streets of Dublin and its suburbs drawing attention to Michael Flynn’s newly branded business “Mattress Mick”. But what added the essential spice to the marketing videos was Michael Flynn himself who dressed in bizarrely coloured costumes sings and dances a through series of routines promoting Mattress Mick. It went viral.
This marketing story contains an underlying story about Paul Kelly who finds himself trying to scrape by whatever means are available to earn a living as he worked on the videos. The financial pressures on him are horrible as they are too on his wife as he tries to keep his family together. The destructive power of debt is corroding his life. He is surrounded by people who are not much different. People are just clinging on. Debt is and has been a part of Dublin life for a very long time. It did not just arrive with the recession. It may be a part of all societies, in particular post-colonial societies, but this fun and mostly enjoyable documentary (perhaps a little too long) shows how crippling debt is. Its prevalence and acceptance is underlined in Mattress Mick’s shop in Pearse Street where there is a sign in large block capitals “Credit Available”. So the problem is not going away any time soon. It is never advertised as “debt” always “credit”. It “takes the waiting out of wanting” as one credit card slogan from the seventies claimed.
For all the madcap story line, this is a serious look at the difficulties caused to one decent Dub by the contracting of debt. There is loads to smile about in this quirky movie but the underlying facts are worth pondering also.