WRITER/DIRECTOR: FYZAL BOULIFA
CAST: ROXANNE SCRIMSHAW, NICHOLA BURLEY, KACEY AINSWORTH, JENNIFER LEE MOON
BFI Player/ July 2020
UK / 2019 / Cert TBC / 90 mins
REVIEW by KATHLEEN BONDAR
The titular characters Lynn and Lucy (Roxanne Scrimshaw and Nichola Burley), white, working class mothers in their late twenties, living on a council overspill in a deprived London borough, have known each other since primary school. When Lucy’s new-born baby dies under suspicious circumstances the reignited friendship between the school mates rapidly deteriorates. Fronted by Lynn and her co-workers from the local hairdresser’s, the outraged community on the estate weighs in with irreparable consequences.
The director, Fyzal Boulifa, certainly deals with some dark and tricky issues for his first feature. Lynn & Lucy is a gritty and dispiriting film in many senses. But, it is one to watch, not least owing to the leads.
Roxanne Scrimshaw is “street cast” to perform a version of herself. Any acting role is no small feat. As a newcomer, Scrimshaw brings a range of nuanced moods and expressions to the role, wisely transcribed under Boulifa’s direction using lengthy close-ups and few words. Nichola Burley provides a support role in several senses of the word, carrying the more active and verbal scenes, getting drunk and suffering the silent mob. The result is a balanced duo between the non-actor and actor, aided by a similar upbringing which fuels the narrative.
Similarly, Boulifa references his own experience growing up on a council estate in Leicester, a "sealed-off working-class community - floating in space, impossible to escape". On reading about a young mother on an estate, who, after losing her baby suffered a campaign of harassment, Boulifa hatched the idea of Lynn & Lucy, asking "why would oppressed people turn against each other?"
Despite all these shared backgrounds, Lynn & Lucy comes across as an observational film. The film deals with collective judgement; to some extent it feels judgemental too. We watch the beauticians denounce Lucy with steely stares and cruel platitudes (the manicured salon owner played to perfection by Jennifer Lee Moon embodies this with her begrudging smiles). Lynn swiftly changes from “BFF” to leader of the silent pack. Lynn’s daughter lies in order to curry favour. Eventually, the women turn their backs on Lynn. Whatever argument about accuracy in these female characters, Lynn and Lucy throws a pretty harsh light on female friendship.
Boulifa points to Alan Clark and Rainer Werner Fassbinder as influences - "both offered unflinching portraits of their characters". However, Lynn & Lucy might fit better with the “Kitchen Sink” dramas from the British New Wave of the 1960’s. Comparisons can be made to Ken Loach’s 1966 classic Cathy Come Home and Mike Leigh’s equally iconic 1991 film Life is Sweet with Alison Steadman. Interestingly, producer Camilla Bray's credits include Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley and Jim Loach’s Oranges and Sunshine starring Emily Watson. Whilst Lynn & Lucy is a raw debut feature and might not equal these auteurs, director Fyzal Boulifa is certainly someone to follow.
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