Pin Cushion (4 stars)

Pin Cushion

Deborah Haywood's powerful debut delivers brutal truths about the female experience

Despite its title, the feature debut from award-winning short filmmaker Deborah Haywood is determinedly hard to pin down. With its colour-clash aesthetic and cast of extreme characters it may look like a Wes Anderson film but it plays more like Heathers meets Carrie – even that doesn't capture its singular vibe. This wilful collision of tone and theme brings Pin Cushion unexpected power, as it subverts expectation to deliver some brutal truths about the female experience.

Joanna Scanlan puts in a heartbreaking performance as Lyn, an eccentric middle-aged woman moving to a new Midlands town with her teenage daughter Iona (the superb Lily Newmark). The pair have an incredibly close bond that ranges from the endearing (they dance together in matching animal hats) to the deliberately unsettling (they share the same bed) – an intense product of Lyn's extreme social isolation. When Iona starts her new school, her desire to make friends sends her running into the arms of vicious school bully Keeley (Sacha Cordy-Nice), whose true colours she's far too naive to see.

While it may be somewhat exaggerated that neither Lyn nor Iona come across a single kind soul – the leader of the local support group delivers one of the film's most devastating verbal blows – this deliberately heightened atmosphere of finger-pointing, judgement and shame makes a sucker punch statement about the way in which women can be treated, and so often by each other. As the mild-mannered Lyn, who has a hunchback, and the quiet, stunning Iona are seized upon for their looks and 'different' behaviour, their persecution is both breathtakingly cruel and painfully familiar. Their unspoken pain cuts through the kitsch and whimsy like a knife.

At the centre of this emotional turmoil, the off-kilter mother-daughter bond is as strong as it is strange. She might present herself as meek and apologetic to the outside world, but Lyn is fiercely protective of her daughter, determined that she shouldn't have to face the same ostracising attitudes that have followed her all her life. It's a timely reminder of the power of genuine love and connection – a welcome beacon of hope in the dark.

Selected release from Fri 13 Jul.

Pin Cushion

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 22min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Deborah Haywood
  • Cast: Lily Newmark, Joanna Scanlan, Loris Scarpa, Sacha Cordy-Nice
  • UK release: 13 July 2018

Lyn (Scanlan) is an eccentric mother who moves to a new Midlands town with her teenage daughter Iona (Newmark), but the pair’s close bond is threatened when Iona makes friends with school bully Keeley (Cordy-Nice). Despite the whimsical surface it delivers brutal truths about female experience, as well as the power of…