Against the sound of falling two-pence coins, Agyness Deyn’s Lily sits behind a sheet of glass offering change for arcade machines in exchange for crumpled notes. When a charming young man asks for her name along with his handful of coins, the pair exchange flirtatious conversation and arrange to meet at a pub on the seafront.
Later on, as Lily approaches their chosen venue, her vision begins to blur and she quickly loses balance. As she dutifully kneels and places her jumper on the ground in a vain attempt to protect herself from the impending epileptic fit, she can only watch as her new friend notices her and then leaves the rapidly forming crowd. Electricity’s opening scene is subtle, powerful and legitimate – three qualities the rest of the film sorely lacks.
As in the acclaimed 2006 novel by Ray Robinson on which the film is based, epilepsy isn’t the only element to Lily’s story, but it certainly frames it in desperation. Haunted by memories of an inattentive and even malicious mother, Lily’s solitary life is at least safe, if not fulfilling. But when the sale of her deceased mother’s house sets her on the hunt for her estranged yet beloved brother, Lily must forgo physical and mental well-being for the sake of resolution and reunion.
After the elegance of the film’s opening scene, Electricity continues with a narration that feels like blunt force trauma by comparison. Rather than adapt Robinson’s work, the script attempts to duplicate its power with crow-barred exposition and a poeticism that feels somehow inauthentic. Elsewhere there are convincing moments – Lily is constantly treating ever-present cuts, scrapes and bruises, and her motto “Thrash, get up, get on with it,” is appealingly practical – but they’re stifled by some troublingly flat performances.
It’d be easy to write off Deyn’s continuing foray into acting – her performance is particularly cold and emotionless, often delivering lines as if reading them for the first time – but the script seems to have been just as much a stumbling block for the other, more seasoned actors.
The most significant departures from the film’s subject material are found in the visuals, which are powerful, though not at all consistent. Shots are occasionally well framed, sets are realistically dressed and Lily’s epilepsy-induced hallucinations are visually interesting, but an overuse of wobbly camera work and Vaseline-lensed flashbacks ends up detracting from the overall experience.
Electricity’s subject matter is both important and interesting, but the film itself unfortunately fails to get this across. Uneven performances and a disappointing script result in a work that’s tedious when it should be enlightening.
Joe Manners Lewis
Electricity is released nationwide on 12th December 2014.
Watch the trailer for Electricity here;