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Pin Cushion is an intensely acted British indie from first-time director Deborah Haywood that builds remorselessly to a dull ecstasy of black comic misery and cartoon horror. It’s a movie I admired more than enjoyed, chiefly for the two lead performances.
Lily Newmark is excellent as shy, lonely teenager Iona, who has just moved to a new town with her eccentric mum Lyn – in which role Joanna Scanlan gives an outstanding and rather terrifying performance, mostly in uncompromising and pitiless closeup.
Lyn has learning difficulties; she also has a deformed spine and wears a built-up shoe. Yet she has a perky childlike optimism and is obsessed with her budgie, her china knick-knacks and her pictures of cats. She is like something from Ricky Gervais’s Derek, or perhaps one of the early 70s novels of Martin Amis.
She and Iona call themselves Dafty One and Dafty Two, and, excruciatingly, drink from matching mugs with these names on them. Iona goes to school and submissively tries to befriend the mean-girl clique whose flinty-eyed, princessy leader Keeley (Sacha Cordy-Nice) is dreaming up ways of humiliating her.
Meanwhile, Lyn almost immediately becomes exploited and bullied by a neighbour. There is something toe-curlingly painful in this festival of abuse, although I felt that the scene in which Lyn tries to join a local knitting-themed “friendship group” was maybe a bit too caricatured. It is a film whose claustrophobia and nightmare-sadness are superbly controlled, and Scanlan gives us one of the best performances of her career as the pitiful and unpitied Lyn.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Pin Cushion review – ecstasy of black comic misery and cartoon horror | Drama films