Electricity

Review by Luke Channell

Directed by

Bryn Higgins

Starring

Agyness Deyn Christian Cooke Lenora Crichlow

Anticipation.

Played at London Film Festival and yet still has its mysteries intact.

Enjoyment.

A successful marriage of source material, artistic intent and Agyness Deyn.

In Retrospect.

Keen to see what Terence Davies makes of Deyn in next year’s Sunset Song.

Agyness Deyn confirms her leading lady credentials in this innovative and poetic Brit drama about the trials of living with epilepsy.

Lily is a young woman working as a casino cashier in a northern seaside town. “I took the initiative,” says a handsome chap who wants to know her name. “I took your money,” she returns. It’s flirtatious banter. A scrap of paper with his number causes a look of romantic happiness. Preparing to meet him later, she slips into a shimmering blue minidress and pops a whole bunch of pills. Is this an addiction film? The dreamy tone and composure of Lily make it seem otherwise. The pills are for her epilepsy.

With the exception of a debut that didn’t make too much noise, Bryn Higgins is a TV director with credits on Casualty 1909 and Black Mirror to his name. For Electricity, he steps it up a gear, playing with light, particularly the way it blurs and causes shapes to come in and out of focus. As Lily talks about the electrical storms in her brain, the screen lights up with exploding synapses. He toys with sound too, so we hear the exaggerated slowness of Lily’s breathing as she tries to stay calm, narrating author Ray Robinson’s fascinating prose and telling us that she’s, “Alice falling down the rabbit hole,” just before a convulsion replaces date night with a trip to the hospital.

This is not (quite) a Plucky Ill Fated Female Lives Her Life To The Max movie in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars or Now is Good. For one, Lily is not dying; she is living with a neurological disorder which causes sensory disturbances. For two, key relationships are not with a blossoming love interest. Two brothers and two friends — one old, one new — are her driving force. Especially one long-lost brother, Mikey (Christian Cooke). The death of Lily’s estranged mother provides the catalyst for her to attempt to track him down ostensibly to give him a cut of money but it’s clear that he’s never stopped being her biggest love.

Model-turned-actress Agyness Deyn is as mesmerising as all the coloured lights dancing. Impossibly tall, slender and with a face that looks different from her every angle, she has a sense of ‘otherness’ that suits a character saddled with an unusual condition. But although Higgins explores the mysteries of epilepsy with an artistic hand, he is not fetishising it. Lily always arises from her hippy spiral bleeding and bruised. Deyn’s broad northern accent and brisk dialogue plant her alien beauty in the real world, even as bold costume design channel her previous career and entertain the eye.

Deyn is easily the most compelling element of this curious odyssey. The voice of Ray Robinson and his source novel sits beautifully in her performance. Actual events: coming to London to find Mikey, striking up a friendship with a kind-hearted stranger, getting robbed by a super-unconvincing homeless person are not where the stakes of this film are mounted. We are wired into Lily’s brain and her poetic struggles to live seriously while at the mercy of unpredictable insides.

Published 11 Dec 2014

Tags: Agyness Deyn

Anticipation.

Played at London Film Festival and yet still has its mysteries intact.

Enjoyment.

A successful marriage of source material, artistic intent and Agyness Deyn.

In Retrospect.

Keen to see what Terence Davies makes of Deyn in next year’s Sunset Song.

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