Fanny Lye Deliver’d
10th October 2019 8.40pm at BFI Southbank
11th October 2019 3.00pm at Vue West End
11th October 2019 3.30pm at Vue West End
On a misty and mud-soaked Shropshire farm in 1657, Fanny Lye (Maxine Peake) lives a modest life raising a child under her puritanical, tyrannical husband John (Charles Dance). But when two strangers (Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds) come seeking hospitality, the family soon discover that the travellers are not what they seem. As dangerously progressive views are revealed, Fanny is forced to rise up from her oppressed existence and forge her own path to God.
Peake’s performance in this brutal and bloody period drama shows remarkable restraint, evolving from humility into powerful defiance. Her character is driven by faith, and yet she must carefully navigate the line between enriching worship and suffocating doctrine. Though she seems deceptively compliant, when the time comes, she does not step easily from one man’s clutches into another’s. Dance’s stern portrayal is stubborn and intense but also complicated, not as unyielding as it first appears. Fox plays the face of progress with alluring charisma, yet his character is laced with a thrillingly frightening edge. Despite his anarchic views, he cannot fully escape the patriarchy.
Thomas Clay’s film has an undoubtedly strong female voice: on top of Peake’s powerful presence, the story is narrated by Reynolds. However, more might have been gained from a further exploration of the relationship between the two female characters, which would surely serve better than a retrospective voiceover that lessens the mystery which the feature works so hard to weave. The tale twists in interesting directions, but the constant interruptions remove us from the present moment, muting the atmospheric sound and undermining constant efforts to create suspense.
To his credit, Clay uses foggy visuals effectively, with hazy figures appearing gradually from the gloom to create a chilling aesthetic. Sometimes his dark and dreary palette has an emotionally numbing effect – but occasionally, the screen blooms red in the subtle flush of a cheek or the spilling of blood, and scenes jump out at us as if rousing us from slumber. Striking close-ups focus on resolute and passionate eyes, and in these precious moments we can believe that the holy spirit truly does reside in Fanny Lye.
Powerful performances uncover intrigue in the barest, humblest of lodgings. Unfortunately, they are not quite enough to lift us fully from the desolate world in which we find ourselves.
Fanny Lye Deliver’d does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.