“I was abandoned as a baby. And this old hunchbacked lady found me in the forest and looked after me. She loved me and raised me and then one day she walked me to the edge of the forest and set me free.”
To label Pin Cushion just an experience would be an understatement. It’s a film that offers up so much more. It provokes you, it makes you shudder, it forces a cringe, it reaches for a laugh, it politely horrifies, telling a story that’s been told so many times before, but never like this.
On the surface, it may seem like a mother daughter tale, intensely focusing on the relationship between dysfunctional, lovable lumpy Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and her sweet, caring daughter, Iona (Lily Newmark). But director Deborah Haywood explores much more in her debut than just the functions of family dysfunction. Pin Cushion explores the coming of age rituals Iona must suffer, attempting to evolve beyond her quirky immaturity into a world of slags, vapes and sucking cock, babe.
Much to the dismay of Lyn, who recoils as she passively witnesses her daughter transform into an unfamiliar face, all while remaining absent in Iona’s journey. The severe lack of parent or any parental figure presented throughout the feature reflects not only Lyn and Iona’s slack grip of reality, but of their seemingly toxic and doomed love. This gives Pin Cushion its hook, the emotionally intelligent plot is constantly adapting, twisting and turning, never once giving in to what you want, but provoking you with what’s next. It’s uncomfortable and dark but funny and bittersweet, Pin Cushion is unique, embracing itself as a genuine tale of unconditional love, twisted and warped, toxic and damaging, mother and daughter, Dafty 1 and Dafty 2. Haywood’s world of the feminine gothic acts as a necessary comfort. It aids as a thin layer of protection, shielding us from the very real, very harsh realities of real life. The colours, the glitter, the kaleidoscope shots all aid to the mystical, yet child-like fantasy realm the characters run for comfort in.
Lyn is the driving force of the films emotion, with Iona’s descent into sexuality and self-discovery ending up every kind of wrong; she struggles to grasp her daughter’s behaviour, with neither of them ever asking the other what’s wrong? Joanna Scanlan offers a pure performance, embodying every element of her character, and committing it with clunky grace.
A true and brutal reflection of the consequences of mental health, and the weight of relationships, the trials and tribulations of a working class ‘weird’ girl, the truth about bullying and the experience of disability. Pin Cushion has something that every single person can relate to, it shows that women’s stories expressed through cinema are still rare, and new, and required now more than ever.
By Kelsie Dickinson
Kelsie Dickinson is a super-gay film student at UCLAN in Preston. She writes part-time for her uni’s paper The Pulse and is a lover of any indie horrors and films with nice lighting. Her favourite films are Lost in Translation, the original Evil Dead and It Follows. You can follow her on twitter @punkrocket_ and under the same user on instagram.