Super close Mother LYN and daughter IONA (Dafty One and Dafty Two) are excited for their new life in a new town. Determined to make a success of things after a tricky start, Iona becomes '...
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As Magdalena's 15th birthday approaches, her simple, blissful life is complicated by the discovery that she's pregnant. Kicked out of her house, she finds a new family with her great-granduncle and gay cousin.
Super close Mother LYN and daughter IONA (Dafty One and Dafty Two) are excited for their new life in a new town. Determined to make a success of things after a tricky start, Iona becomes 'best friends' with KEELY, STACEY and CHELSEA. Used to being Iona's bestie herself, Lyn feels left out. So Lyn also makes friends with BELINDA, her neighbour. As much as Lyn and Iona pretend to each other that things are going great, things aren't going great for either of them. Iona struggles with the girls, who act more like frenemies than friends, and Belinda won't give Lyn her stepladders back. Both Mother and Daughter retreat into fantasy and lies.
A bold feature debut by Writer-Director Deborah Haywood, this film is everything that is great about British cinema (incredible performances, sharp humour, wonderful characterisation in a relatable setting), but avoids many (if not all) of its cliches.
At its heart the film tackles the themes of adolescence, bullying, social isolation and mental health without becoming burdened with psychoanalysis. It presents social structures of children and adults in its reality (granted for many this will be an extreme reality) and simply tells the story of two unique characters trying to navigate pitfalls they're tragically unprepared for.
With a brutal honesty that never becomes overtly graphic, there are many shocking moments to this story. But herein lies its brilliance. It is not a paint by numbers 'girl tries to fit in before realising her inner beauty and learns to love herself instead'; it is a dark fairytale (though we tend to forget that almost all fairytales are dark), often reminiscent of Fran Walsh & Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures but wonderfully original.
Within the film's brilliant cast there are standout performances from the leads Lily Newmark and the wonderful character actor Joanna Scanlan. While they've been gifted two of the years most eccentric and memorable characters, they bring them to life with such authenticity it's hard not to expect them to be receiving awards next year.
The highs and minor low for me come in the form of the direction. A brief scene where one of the film's bullies pontificates how their behaviour would improve in a different environment is so understated a lesser director would have had it on the cutting room floor or worse still expanded it into a third-act redemption for the bully, undermining our hero's plight. Instead it is a beautiful moment of reality, of which this film contains many.
When Iona and Lyn enter the nearby corner shop there is a sickening blue cast from the lighting, a motif that's not repeated in any other setting and while there could be further meaning to it, it was lost on me and formed a small insignificant distraction. After all, in every other moment in the film colour is used to great effect, particularly in the fantastical vision's Iona uses to escape reality.
This film is not going to make you feel better about the world but it certainly isn't going to lecture you about it. It's a disturbingly beautiful fairytale that sadly is set in the real world, but will bring you real moments of joy and innocence along the way. Go see this, it's wonderful.
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