Title – Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)
Director – Thomas Clay (Soi Cowboy)
Cast – Maxine Peake, Charles Dance, Freddie Fox, Tanya Reynolds
Plot – In rural England of 1657, deeply religious puritan couple John Lye (Dance) and his repressed wife Fanny (Peake) have their lives turned upside down by the arrival of fugitives and free spirits Thomas (Fox) and Rebecca (Reynolds).
“I’ll send thee back to Satan”
Review by Eddie on 16/11/2020
A labor of love for its writer and director Thomas Clay, who spent the better part of 10 years developing this 1600’s set English period folk piece; his first film since 2008’s Soi Cowboy, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is an almost indescribable melting pot of drama, thriller and religiously tinged horror and while it doesn’t all work, this unique piece of independent film-making is still worth your time.
Introducing us to a post war era of rural England, where witch hunts, churches and religious zealots run rampant throughout the mud-filled lands of the English countryside, Deliver’d introduces us to odd couple John and Fanny, who alongside their young boy Arthur live out a quiet existence on their farmland (custom built for this film), with their faith dominating their lives, a faith tested by the arrival of Freddie Fox’s Thomas and Tanya Reynolds Rebecca, a couple who couldn’t be further from the Lye’s in nature and desires.
When watching clips or trailers of Clay’s film one would be right in expecting something of The Witch like horror but Deliver’d is a much different beast to that genre classic and while both films share similar settings, religious/faith themed undertones and characters grappling with their teachings going head to head with their feelings, Deliver’d is a more dramatic themed feminist-centric yarn that allows its breakout performer Maxine Peake one of the roles of her increasingly impressive career.
Fanny may be the titular character of the film but it takes a while for Peake’s fully formed performance to take centre stage here in what’s a masterful build-up from her and Clay with Fanny undergoing significant evolution from the first time we see her tending to her chores through to her last triumphant frame and after notable turns in well-regarded if little seen offerings like Funny Cow and Peterloo, Peake is an undeniable triumph here as complicated wife, mother and independent spirit.
There’s a lot going on around Fanny and Clay’s film is loaded with ideas and explorations, some of which don’t feel fully formed come the films more drastically pivoted final stretch but it’s an unpredictable affair and one that might not make for easy viewing but remains constantly engaging throughout as we remain on edge, unsure of what lays ahead for our collection of troubled souls in equally troubled times.
Final Say –
A film that defies simple explanation or analysis, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is a confronting film and one that struggles at times to juggle its various components but its strong trope of actors and wholly original vibe makes for mostly fascinating and unpredictable viewing.
3 1/2 muddy fields out of 5