Spare and direct, but composed of many artful emotional and moral layers, this melodrama confronts the misery that can be born of the compulsion to be on the right side of something. In desperate search of the good response to something which, in the end, is only bad, we find Lynn (Roxanne Scrimshaw), best friend of the wayward Lucy (Nichola Burley). In the wake of a catastrophe, Lynn steps in to defend the woman who has been her wilder half since school; but when local gossip turns firmly against Lucy, Lynn’s loyalties shift.
Making his feature debut after a highly acclaimed shorts career, writer-director Fyzal Boulifa wisely lends a plain, low-key telling to a potentially lurid story, letting the startlingly good performances and unpredictable plot turns speak for themselves. New discovery Scrimshaw and the always compelling Burley both bring conviction, subtlety and raw emotion to characters who feel fiercely real, as people and as friends: Lynn the stoical, sensible one who both loves and resents her reckless mate; Lucy the bombshell whose charisma masks a feral blankness.
Boulifa’s choice to shut out most of the surrounding context whereby working-class lives are so often judged and measured within fictional depictions – we barely see police, social workers or media – narrows the focus to Lynn’s own troubled conscience, creating a story less about blighted lives or societal indifference than about individual judgment and responsibility.
Lynn tries out several female archetypes in her quest to do right. First, true to her self-image as first and foremost a mum, she nurtures and protects Lucy; then, influenced by the glamorous mean girls she works with at the local salon, she grows gossipy and suspicious; soon she’s an authoritarian community organiser agitating her neighbours to ostracise her friend. This adoption of positions is not only inauthentic on a personal level, but ultimately catalyses further tragedy. Lynn is left to reckon with the pure loss from which vengefulness is so often a diversion – a state so beautifully played by Scrimshaw that one hungers to see more work from her soon.