Lynn + Lucy


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Lynn + Lucy
"Scrimshaw captures Lynn's warring emotions perfectly." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

British director Fyzal Boulifa makes an assured step up from short films to features with this dissection of the way that communities can quickly turn for or against someone with devastating consequences. He certainly didn't do things the easy way - street casting his lead Roxanne Scrimshaw, a decision that pays off, as she shows no signs of nerves as Lynn, who has been best buddies with Lucy (Nichola Burley) since childhood.

From a working-class community, they may have very different personalities - pretty Lucy, with her blue hair, party girl attitude and newborn baby and Lynn, forced to grow up fast by a young pregnancy and now settled in the daily grind of stay-at-home motherhood - but they have always had one another's backs. Or at least they always have up until now.

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There are signs of shifting sands, with Lynn, whose life, aside from Lucy, has more or less revolved around her family, steeling herself to take a dogsbody job at the local hair and beauty salon, run by the immaculate Janelle (Jennifer Lee Moon, who just about steals every scene she is in). Lucy, meanwhile, is finding the combination of responsibility for her new baby and a volatile relationship with his dad hard waters to navigate - struggles that, initially, it seems Lynn will be able to help her with.

Boulifa's script leaves plenty of time for his characters to think, while Taina Galis' camera lingers on them, allowing us to catch their gestures and consider their thoughts. The film is largely about reaction - Lucy's reaction to being a mother and they way that unfortunate events spark reaction in Lynn, along with Lynn's reaction to a new-found sense of self-esteem. It's also about the reactions of the community - and the way that these can be unpredictable and change on a dime.

You sense reaction rather than action has long been Lynn's stock-in-trade, as Janelle tells her colleagues at the salon - unaware her new employee is listening - the story of how Lynn had the nickname "pig" in school. Scrimshaw captures the warring emotions perfectly, caught between pain remembered and the choice between enduring the latest barb or saying something. This may be her first professional role, but if there's any justice, it won't be her last. Boulifa, meanwhile, nails the way that remaining in the same community you grew up, while comforting on one level, also means that you carry with you the weight of shared experience and knowledge, meaning reinvention is nigh on impossible.

Still, Lynn tries. Her new-found confidence helped by a makeover - with physical appearance also forming a key part of Boulifa's film. We see, for example, how Lynn's nails are part-manicured, part broken near the start of the film, her hair scraped back and with not a scrap of make-up. Later, she is given fresh confidence by a hair do and it's too Boulifa's credit that he doesn't overstate this.  And though Lynn is our focal point, the idea of keeping up appearances is everywhere. From the importance of a perfect selfie is for Janelle - drinking fizz on a night out with her salon girls even as they have a bottle of rather more pedestrian white wine - to members of the community coming together not just through a shared sense of purpose but because of more negative emotions that cause them to want to run with the pack.

Although Lucy is the minor character here, Burley fills her full of contradiction, too, capturing the way that her emotions begin to turn in on themselves in the face of a breakdown of her friendship. Boulifa perhaps pushes the boundaries of believability a little with a late-stage second salon visit but the actresses are unwavering in their performances, showing how circumstance can indiscriminately claim victims.

Reviewed on: 03 Oct 2019
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Lynn and Lucy are life-long best friends but after the birth of Lucy's first child, their relationship comes under strain.
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SSFF 2019
London 2019

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