tue 04/08/2020

Lynn + Lucy review - a bruising tale of female friendship | reviews, news & interviews

Lynn + Lucy review - a bruising tale of female friendship

Lynn + Lucy review - a bruising tale of female friendship

Fyzal Boulifa directorial debut is a stark, unforgiving portrait of modern Britain

British director Fyzal Boulifa makes his feature film debut with a bruising account of female-friendship torn apart by personal tragedies and gossipmongers, on a council estate in Harlow. 

At under an hour and a half, Boulifa shows a gift for economic storytelling, but that doesn’t mean it comes without an emotional wallop. The story centres on two twenty-something mothers who have been best friends since school. Lynn is played by street-cast actress Roxanne Scrimshaw, who makes a startling debut, and Lucy by Nichola Burley (Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights), who delivers at every turn. Together they make for a powerhouse duo, with their dramatic skills masking some of the film’s more uneven elements. Roxanne Scrimshaw and Nichola Burley in Lynn + LucyPregnant at sixteen, Lynn is married to her high school sweetheart Paul (Shaq B. Grant). Their marriage is an unhappy, sexless one, where Lynn’s only joy is found in her natural maternal gifts. The rest is frustration and regretful imagining of what might have been whilst doing the ironing and watching Dancing on Ice

Lucy is a different story. With her cookie-monster-blue-hair, she’s young at heart. Knocking back shots at the local nightclub and desperate to escape domesticity, Lucy is struggling to adjust to the birth of her son with her much younger, computer game-loving boyfriend, Clark (Samson Cox-Vinell). 

Their friendship appears unbreakable, but then Lynn gets a job at a local hair salon run by Janelle (Jennifer Lee Moon), where local curtain-twitcher Caroline (EastEnders’ Little Mo, Kacey Ainsworth) also works. When tragedy strikes, Lynn finds she’s drawn closer to the inner circle of the salon, fracturing her long-term friendship with Lucy.

Boulifa’s story is dramatically uneven, unable to successfully navigate a transition in the second act to a more intense moral thriller, even with the guiding hand of Ken Loach who acts as a producer. It’s also guilty of falling into some of the miserabilist clichés of kitchen sink dramas. 

Still, as a social realist drama centred on working-class life in Britain, Boulifa is clearly deeply sympathetic to his subject. He attempts to capture the struggles of white-working class communities, without totally ignoring tensions of race, gender and even religion. 

One of the film’s finest aspects is also its most subtle. Gossip operates like a stone thrown into a pond, with its consequences rippling out. Here gossip is on the streets and on our screens, fuelled by the toxic tactics of tabloid moral-flag waving. If Boulifa is truly reflecting today’s Britain in Lynn + Lucy, we should be horrified at how empathy and forgiveness have been replaced by judgement and division.

@JosephDAWalsh  

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