VOD film review: Lapwing
Scanlan and Douglas6
Violence and misery6
Matthew Turner | On 26, Nov 2021
Director: Philip Stevens
Cast: Hannah Douglas, Emmett J Scanlan, Sarah Whitehouse, Sebastian De Souza, Javed Khan
Where to watch Lapwing online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
The debut feature of director Philip Stevens and writer Laura Turner, this engaging British drama fuses elements of period romance and horror to strong effect. The film is set on the Lincolnshire coastline in 1555, where, a caption informs us, The Egyptian Act has recently been passed, meaning that all travelling communities must leave England, and any British citizens found in the company of foreign travellers will be executed. Emmett J Scanlan (Peaky Blinders) plays David, the tyrannical leader of a group of salt farmers, who makes a deal with Romani leader Arif (Javed Khan) to harbour his family on their land for a month until a transport boat arrives, in return for a large sum of money.
However, when David’s near-mute sister-in-law, Patience (Hannah Douglas), falls in love with Arif’s attractive son, Rumi (Sebastian De Souza – Skins), he is driven to bouts of rage and violence, fuelled partly by sexual jealousy and partly by hatred and intolerance. Meanwhile, David’s wife, Lizzie (Sarah Whitehouse), struggles with David’s oppressive nature and the whisperings of the rest of the salt farmers only increase his paranoia.
Scanlon is terrific as David, a truly monstrous, mercurial figure who’s apt to lash out at any given moment, while also lording his power over the small group of salt miners. The fact that the other men are visibly cowed in his presence suggests that terrible incidents have taken place in the past and that they know better than to challenge him.
Douglas delivers a compelling turn as Patience, whose chirps of crippling inarticulacy have earned her the nickname Lapwing. There’s a strong suggestion that a traumatic past incident is responsible for her condition and it doesn’t take much to guess what that might be.
Unfortunately, De Souza’s character is severely underwritten by comparison and the romance element of the film suffers as a result. It’s also frustrating that the film ultimately never capitalises on The Egyptian Act, given its prominence in the opening caption.
The film’s strongest element is the atmosphere of fear and tension that Stevens creates, putting the audience on the edge of their seat any time David opens his mouth or glowers in someone’s direction. In addition, Turner’s script is very perceptive on toxic male behaviour, the abuse of power and the damage done by hate and intolerance – the story has strong contemporary relevance. It would also make a great double-bill with 2018’s The Nightingale, and not just because both films have bird names as titles.