Maxine Peake stars in Fanny Lye Deliver’d, a film that’s taken a long, long time to get to the screen – here’s our review.
After a troubled and long production, half a decade after it was shot Fanny Lye Deliver’d has, well, finally been delivered. And was it worth the wait? In many ways, yes.
Part folk-horror, part puritan-western with a feminist streak, the drama is a blending of genres that isn’t completely pulled off, but when it works, it’s a treat. It’s worth the watch alone for Maxine Peake’s superb performance as Fanny Lye, an oppressed woman living on an isolated farm in Shropshire in 1657, whose world is turned upside down when two strangers enter her life. Peake always has great onscreen presence, which is particularly felt here, and you can see the restraint and strength of Fanny in her eyes alone. Whilst she has learned to suppress herself in her role as farmer’s wife to Charles Dance’s snarling and brutal ex-soldier John, Peake’s Fanny has a quiet ferocity about her, leaving us waiting for the fire to ignite. It does take a while to get going though, as Fanny Lye Deliver’d is a slow burner, but the story is mysterious and intriguing enough to remain interesting, and when events kick in, it fully reels you in.
Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds are brilliantly cast as the two young strangers who bring into Fanny’s life chaos, mischief and new horizons. Reynolds in particular shines, and it’s hard to believe this was her first professional on-camera role (she also delivered fantastic performances in Emma and Sex Education). A rising star, there will be much more to come from her in the future.
Meanwhile, director Thomas Clay is clearly a man of many talents as not only did he helm the project, he also wrote, edited and composed it. Whilst this was partly due to budgetary reasons, it also helps him ensure his vision is consistent, delivering an eerie, cold and arresting tone with the cinematography and score. From the first striking shots, there is something immediately captivating about Fanny’s isolated world, an uneasiness which draws us in. Although we never leave Fanny’s farm and its immediate surroundings, the location never gets dull, something helped by the impressive 360-degree authentic 17th century set which was built using traditional methods. Clay’s dedication to his craft is particularly clear, battling through floods which washed away sets, and tight budget constraints. A touching tribute at the end of the picture, ‘For Joe’, pays respect to Clay’s long-time friend and producer Joseph Lang who tragically passed away two years into the film’s development.
Getting Fanny Lye Deliver’d to the screen was no easy journey, but just like the central hero it not only survives, but also thrives.
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