Charming and poignant, Pin Cushion is a movie brimming with whimsy and emotion. Chronicling the naturally fraught stage of the mother-daughter relationship during adolescence, its surface innocence and stunning twists make it a truly startling debut picture from first-time British director Deborah Haywood.
Pin Cushion’s plot follows Mother, Lynn and her teenage daughter Iona. Lynn is disabled, introverted and friendless except for Iona, a bastion of innocence and naivety. When the eccentric pair move to a new town everything changes. Caught off guard by their new surroundings, both struggle to adjust. Iona competes for entrance into the mean-girls-esque clique at school, whilst her mother fearing losing the bond her daughter, also has trouble making friends. As both women begin lying about the success of their respective new lives, a distance grows between them and events spiral out of control.
Pin Cushion’s story is engaging from the word go, with the pace rarely ever lagging and it’s dramatic and comic beats building to a simply jaw dropping conclusion. Aesthetically, Haywood fills each frame with an explosion of colour, punctuated by a vibrant soundtrack that would not feel out of place in your regular American indie. This bubbly, bright tone is deftly undercut with a darker, more cynical worldview present in Haywood’s script.
“quirky and colourful central characters with genuine depth and intrigue”
Chiefly explored is the impossible task of parenthood, between wanting your children to grow up and the fear of losing them. Mother and daughter become increasingly estranged as time goes on with Lynn growing more and more jealous of her daughter’s obsession with fitting in at school. Haywood, an exciting new British voice, writes from a personal yet unbiased place, sympathising with both sides- rewarding her quirky and colourful central characters with genuine depth and intrigue.
But Pin Cushion is not just a family drama, it delves deeper than that- seeking to inspect the difficulties and intrinsic complexities of female friendships at all ages, not just school. It explores the importance of appearance, from Iona’s insistence on trying make-up, to her mother’s public shunning due to her physical disability, shining a light on all forms of bullying and clique-forming that too many post-Mean Girls films of the same ilk have over-simplified to just the high school years.
“Joanna Scanlan provides a brilliant performance steeped in a bone dry, dark, humour”
A host of brilliant performances also permeate the film with Pin Cushion heralding the arrival of Lily Newmark as Iona, who brings both emotional depth and winning charm to what is at times a difficult and unsettling role. Opposite her, Joanna Scanlan provides a brilliant performance steeped in a bone dry, dark, humour, whilst Sacha Cordy-Nice and Bethany Antonia shine as Iona’s high school contemporaries.
Occasionally the film strays a little far from reality, it’s extended dream sequences, though imaginative do detract at times from the gritty British realism its plot revels in, nevertheless Pin Cushion still ranks as a fantastic example of how good British cinema can be. A simple story, set in a small town- yet one that grips you every step of the way, right up until it’s twist laden final moments.
It’s worth noting as well, written and directed by a woman, worked on by a cast and crew overwhelmingly of female filmmakers and actresses and concerning the plight of two women at very different stages in life, Pin Cushion marks a positive step in what stories get told, and who gets to tell them.
Featured Image courtesy of BFI Film Fund and Dignity Film Finance via IMDb.