Lynn + Lucy review: An intensely moving drama
Ivan Radford | On 08, Jul 2020
Director: Fyzal Boulifa
Cast: Roxanne Scrimshaw, Nichola Burley
Watch Lynn + Lucy online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Sky Store
“Did you ever wonder if you’d be able to love them?” asks Lucy (Nichola Burley), after having her first baby boy. She’s talking to Lynn (Roxanne Scrimshaw), her best friend ever since their school days. That question has never been asked about their own relationship, with the two thick as thieves for years – until, that is, Lucy became a mum.
Lynn is already a mother, having married her teen sweetheart and raised a daughter, now in her teens. As Lucy starts spending time at home with her baby, Lynn is starting to leave her house to venture into the world of work for the first time. But Lucy doesn’t take to parenthood as Lynn hopes, and a gulf begins to open up between them – and between Lucy and the rest of the town.
That gulf hinges, in part, on an incident that Lucy and the other neighbours only come to understand after the fact, piecing together information through hearsay and speculation. Judgement, inevitably, falls on Lucy, and the pressure to conform to a certain type of motherhood, to a certain picture of marriage, insidiously eats away at the community. Lucy, who takes an entry-level job at a hairdressers, feels that pressure too, to fall in with the group narrative, and her loyalties are quietly, painfully tested.
Nichola Burley delivers a heartbreakingly intense performance as Lucy, who has always thrived on being the centre of attention – a night out early on sees her say whatever’s needed to impress a guy in a bar, while Lynn gamely goes along. As the timid sidekick, Roxanne Scrimshaw (a newcomer and non-professional actor) is remarkable, containing her volatile inner conflict inside a barely composed exterior; as she bends to the will of the pack, Scrimshaw keeps Lucy’s true feelings wonderfully ambiguous in the film’s best set pieces, leaving us wondering whether she actually thinks Lucy has done something wrong or whether she’s just pretending, or doesn’t even know herself.
That pressure-cooker environment, in which sadness, resentment and isolation grows behind closed doors – Lynn’s husband, we learn, is looking elsewhere – is reinforced by director Fyzal Boulifa’s decision to frame it all within a tight 4:3 box. Boulifa draws magnificent, intimate performances from all of the cast – including Jennifer Lee Moon as the secondary school’s former mean girl Janelle – and then doesn’t give them the space to break out of this constraining, tightly-woven web of suspicions, where questions and misunderstandings carry as much power as love and friendship.
A brilliant feature debut from the Cannes prize-winning short film director, it’s an impressive calling card for Fyzal Boulifa and Roxanne Scrimshaw that will put both rising talents on your ones-to-watch list.
Lynn + Lucy is available now on BFI Player, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on BBC iPlayer until 21st December 2020.