Lifelong best friends find their relationship tested
A tragic incident. A lifetime friendship at stake. Neighbourhood gossip and small-town rumours. Fyzal Boulifa’s suburban drama Lynn + Lucy ruminates on all of the above through his two titular characters, resulting in a quietly powerful tableaux of grief, power and non-judgemental exploration of class in the UK that Ken Loach would certainly be proud of. And he certainly must be – Sixteen Films (Loach’s production company) receives a credit on the film, which is director Boulifa’s first feature.
After success in Cannes with short films Rate Me and The Curse, Boulifa turns his attention to a small town in Essex and to exploring the dynamics of friendship, grief, working class communities and everything in between.
The setting of Harlow may not seem important, but the town’s location and reason for existence is felt throughout the film. Harlow is an in-between town – like many on the outskirts of London – it is close enough to London to be a commuter haven but not far enough away to develop any of its own characteristics; orbiting the capital but not being close enough to be part of its landscape in any meaningful way. In a similar way, Lynn (Roxanne Scrimshaw) is stuck too. She wants to be accepted by her former bully, to make something of herself after years of looking after others, but her relationship with Lucy (Nichola Burley) seems to be at odds with this new life Lynn is in pursuit of.
As more allegations come to light, Lynn is faced with a choice – fit in, or become a pariah like Lucy. It’s a story for the ages – countless best friend/buddy films walk this path – but in Lynn + Lucy, Lynn’s choices are made silently and painfully. Boulifa keeps Lynn boxed into a 4:3 frame, consistently shooting her at the edges of it as if she is trying not to be seen. She wants to be liked, normal and most of all – unseen.
Despite the film’s relatively short runtime, Lynn and Lucy have years of life breathed into them by Burley (a veteran of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights) and newcomer Scrimshaw, who feels as far from her first feature acting credit as it is possible to be. The two together are intoxicating onscreen, a real best friendship bought to life, which makes the subsequent wrenching apart so much harder to deal with. Lucy, with her blue hair and sharp wit is as insecure as Lynn, but in a different way. There is so much injustice, an unspoken power dynamic between Lynn, Lucy, their respective partners, their neighbours, the suffocating town – Boulifa allows this to bubble away under the surface – and both Scrimshaw and Burley run with it. Their world is also padded out thanks to seasoned British TV actor Kacey Ainsworth, and an excellent performance from Jennifer Lee Moon as the manipulative Janelle.
Watching Lynn + Lucy is a stark reminder of exactly where British cinema has failed to meet the mark when it comes to representing the lived experiences of its citizens. The UK is known and heralded for stunning period dramas with lavish costumes, set hundreds of years ago. At the same time, stories from estates like Lynn’s are lost and forgotten – perhaps not considered so aesthetically pleasing as a costume drama. Andrea Arnold, Ken Loach and Lynne Ramsay have broken through this barrier somewhat, but it’s Boulifa’s film that reminds us that there are plenty more stories outside of the middle-class bubble that need telling, and this is just one of them.
Lynn + Lucy can be streamed on BFI Player from July 2nd
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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