EdFilmFest 2020 Review: Fanny Lye Deliver’d

Continuing to follow the trend of contemporary folk horror explored in the likes of A Field in England, Apostle, and Midsummer, writer-director Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d takes similar thematic concepts and repurposes them into a thriller centred on the breakdown of puritanical norms. Screening as part of Edfilmfest at Home, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is due for general release on June 26th in the UK.

Set in 1657 on an isolated Shropshire farm, Fanny Lye (Maxine Peake) begins to question the control of her oppressive puritanical husband Charles (Charles Dance) when two mysterious young drifters (Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds) – in the midst of a pursuit from the council Sheriff – appear at their door.

Picking up in a post-Cromwell England, newfound freedoms are being embraced across the nation, despite not reaching Fanny yet. Thomas and Rebecca, our mysterious drifters, are the embodiment of these liberal new politics and sexual freedoms – something that is gradually unveiled and explored as they begin to shake Fanny’s traditional dynamic. Setting this transformative tale against traditional rural folk aesthetics, beautifully shot by cinematographer Giorgos Arvanitis gives the film an earthy, naturalistic feel – with the primal nature of the young drifters channelled in the muddy, idyllic Shropshire locales.

Clay’s narrative is a slow-burning one, taking its time to establish Fanny as a somewhat submissive, helpless protagonist at the mercy of her militaristic husband. Yet a small act of defiance in Fanny learning a secret about the runaways and keeping this from her husband – a minute, yet pivotal moment that allows for Fanny Lye Deliver’d to begin to unleash some brutal gore, unrestrained sexuality, and sharp narrative tension as folk horror elements creep into the narrative..

Patient audiences will be rewarded as Fanny Lye Deliver’d veers into more unrestrained waters, with the tables turned by the hedonists and Fanny thrust from her safe restraints, Clay’s film becomes a sharp, gripping feminist thriller. With Thomas and Rebecca the trigger that allows Fanny to break the confines of her traditional female role – embracing her own sexuality and beginning to defend herself throwing the shackles of repression off in a guttural release. This role provides much for lead Maxine Peake to sink her teeth into as she captures the puritanical housewife’s rebirth. Support from Charles Dance as Fanny’s domineering husband, Freddie Fox as the unrestrained Thomas, and Tanya Reynolds  as the somewhat more compassionate Rebecca, does wonders to add further conviction to the Fanny Lye’s world.

Fanny Lye Deliver’d is a slow-burning, rewarding watch orchestrated with an impressive sense of tension from writer-director Thomas Clay. Maxine Peake’s impressive anchoring performance is enthralling, particularly in the context of the brooding folk horror themes.

Fanny Lye Deliver’d will be released on the 26th on Curzon Home Cinema as part of EdFilmFest @Home. It is also available on the following platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Sky, Virgin, Google, Rakuten, BT, Playstation, Microsoft, BFI Player, and Volta.

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