With debut feature film Pin Cushion writer-director Deborah Haywood is putting Swadlincote on the big screen as the setting for this modern and dark fairytale, mixing fantasy with reality. In her first piece for Storge Nikki Beckett gives us the low down on the film.
As of writing this, I feel like one of the only Derbyshire residents that was not previously aware of this film prior to viewing. Whilst waiting for the audience to take their seats in the cinema at QUAD, I sent a quick message to my mum to let her know that I was watching a film that was shot in Swadlincote and directed by Swadlincote native Deborah Haywood, to which my mum replied, “Oh yeah, Pin Cushion”.
However, the lack of acknowledgment by the mainstream masses is fairly ordinary for independent films and according to Haywood, this is also quite common for films directed by women and especially working class women. Personally, I love independent films and this was definitely no exception, the gender framing of the female production team and leads notable but certainly not the only message to position this film as something different.
Pin Cushion is a wholesome, coming-of-age film with a dark and surreal twist. We follow the life of Iona (Lily Newmark) and her mother Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and their recent move to a new town. Iona is a teenager and becomes fascinated with the life and habits of the popular girls at school who, in Mean Girls fashion, take her under their wing only to emotionally abuse, manipulate and bully her.
Iona and her mother have a beautiful relationship and seem more like best friends than mother and daughter but this begins to deteriorate as Iona becomes more involved with the girls at school as well as getting a boyfriend, something Lyn is less than happy about. Unhappy, Iona frequently fantasizes about aspects of her life and how she wishes they could be, which are shown as beautiful scenes (the colouring is mention worthy too) throughout the film that are almost Tim Burton-esque in their detail.
While Iona’s life is snowballing into despair, Lyn has an interesting mirroring of troubling friendships. In what seems like a triviality neighbour Belinda (Chanel Cresswell) borrows a step ladder from Lyn as she is redecorating the house. In the weeks following, Lyn repeatedly asks for them back but is too polite to demand for her own property to be returned. This seems to be parallel to Iona’s friendships with both of them being bullied and intimidated in their own unique way and as the pressure builds, everything comes to a head at the end in a way that I couldn’t have imagined.
One of the most interesting aspects of this film – and a somewhat rare occurrence in screenings – was experiencing the way that the audience interacted with it. They obviously felt very passionately about Lyn as I heard audible tutting and sad sighs at a scene in which Lyn was further ostracized from local neighbours as well as gasps and deep exhales of shock at one of the ending scenes – heartbreaking and hard-hitting.
An enjoyable film the Q&A at the Quad screening on 16 July shaped really my reaction to it. During this, director Deborah Haywood mentioned that she wanted the film to embody aspects of a fairytale and have elements of fantasy within the film. Had she not said this, I would have found it a lot more difficult to not feel upset and angry at the ending. The film definitely builds a tension which comes to a head at the end but not in a way anyone was expecting. I feel it could have been done very differently, aspects were almost insensitive, certainly shocking.
This could be a cult classic in the making and is definitely recommended. It’s wonderful to see local talent doing so well, making something so unique, and putting a Derbyshire town onto the big screen too.
Pin Cushion is showing at QUAD until 19 July, and this week at Odeon in Swadlincote.
Find Pin Cushion:
- on IMDb.