It’s a word laden with meaning. A friend can be anyone from an acquaintance to somebody as close as a blood relative, if not more so. Each one is different and for the life-long best friends at the centre of Lynn + Lucy, it means an intensity that caused constant rumours when they were at school. But is it strong enough to withstand the most terrible of tests?
The two have been friends since they were 11, Lynn giving birth to her daughter when she was still a teenager, while at the start of the film Lucy’s baby boy is being christened. Neither has ventured far from their neighbourhood and they now live across the road from each other, so their closeness continues. But while Lynn is comfortable and happy as a mother – and, by her own admission, “good at it” – Lucy doesn’t respond well to her new role, desperate carry on with the freedom and the life she had before. And when tragedy strikes, Lynn’s loyalty to her friend is tested to an extent she could ever have imagined.
To look at, the two are markedly different. Lynn with long, unstyled hair, comfortable in her cardigan and leggings, while Lucy has dyed her hair bright blue, wears large hoop earrings and goes for the brightest clothes she can find. It’s a reflection of their characters – Lynn the quiet one who prefers being at home, Lucy who loves to dress up and go out on the town. But as the story progresses, their roles reverse. Lynn takes on a job at a hairdresser’s that would normally go to a school leaver, sweeping the floors, making the coffee, and initially looks out of place compared to the rest of the team, especially salon owner Janelle (Jennifer Lee Moon) with her heavy make-up and conspicuously plumped-up cheeks and lips. Until, that is, she grows in confidence after a makeover from the girls at work that transforms her. She’s unrecognisable, both in terms of her appearance and also her attitude. Mousy Lynn has found a voice.
The change in their respective fortunes starts with a tragedy early on the film, one for which Lucy’s partner is the prime suspect. Lynn is the perfect friend, taking her in, looking after her and listening to her tell a terrible story. She never doubts for one moment that there may be another version – until her daughter relates something she witnessed which changes everything. But who does Lynn believe? And who is telling the truth. She loves both of them, but they both can’t be right. The entire community is profoundly affected. Lucy’s house and car is sprayed with abusive slogans, she becomes an outcast, while fear and hysteria escalates in their area, with the residents apprehensive that there could be a recurrence. But now they all believe that Lucy was to blame for what happened and nobody, not even Lynn, will defend her.
Director/writer Fyzal Boulifa in his debut feature doesn’t give us any easy answers – in fact, he doesn’t offer any solutions at all, because this is essentially a no win situation. In a film that owes much to the likes of Ken Loach and others, he presents his story in 4:3 radio, concentrating on the expressions and words of his characters and never waivering, not even to give us a soundtrack. This is a film where silence speaks volumes. His use of a virtually unknown cast – the only familiar faces belong to former EastEnders‘ Kacey Ainsworth in a supporting role and Nichola Burley, from Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights – adds to the credibility of the film. In fact, Roxanne Scrimshaw was street-cast to play Lynn.
With its downbeat tone, tragic storyline and little sense of light at the end of the tunnel, Lynn + Lucy is a tough watch. But it’s never anything short of compelling, and never lets you escape from that crucial question threading through the narrative. What would you do?
Drama | Cert: tbc | BFI | BFI Player, 2 July 2020 | Dir. Fyzal Boulifa | Nichola Burley, Kacey Ainsworth, Roxanne Scrimshaw, Jennifer Lee Moon.