Film Review – Lapwing (2021)

Title – Lapwing (2021) 

Director – Philip Stevens (feature debut) 

Cast – Hannah Douglas, Emmett J Scanlan, Sebastian De Souza

Plot – Set in 1555 England, young mute woman Patience (Douglas) lives out a far from idyllic existence under the guidance of her brother in law David (Scanlan) in the unforgiving countryside as salt farmers. Hope comes in the form of travelling gypsy Rumi (De Souza) who has been banished from the land by a royal decree but Hannah and Rumi find their newfound love is not going to be an easy journey.  

“Maybe it’s this place… maybe we’re all cursed”

Review by Eddie on 28/11/2022

Showcasing 1500’s England as an undeniably grim and grubby place to call home, debut director Philip Steven’s small-scale but often impressively shot independent film aimed to replicate recent female centred period affairs such as The Witch, The Nightingale and Lady Macbeth and while it never quite manages to operate at the same standards as those noteworthy features, there’s enough going on here to suggest a viewing and that all those involved have what it takes to bring it to the next level in the feature film landscape. 

Following Hannah Douglas’s mute and troubled Patience, who lives out an unenviable existence alongside her sister and perma-drunk brother in law David (a menacing and mumbling Emmett J Scanlan) as salt farmers in the unforgiving lands of 1555 England, Lapwing rarely if ever pauses for any moments of humour or fun as Patience finds potential love and salvation in the form of Sebastian De Souza’s gypsy Rumi, who has been shunned by a recent royal decree and banished from being a part of the English society. 

Shot in a Malick-lite way by cinematographer Stewart MacGregor and scored moodily by composer Lee Gretton, Stevens film which was born from screenwriter Laura Turner’s raw and uncompromising script, never truly manages to nail its blending of genres that moves from hard drama, attempted trial against the odds love story and nerve shredding thriller, with Stevens aiming to cover some big ground in both scope and themes (religion, violence,bigotry etc) in his film that was shot over the period of a few weeks in the picturesque countryside of Lincolnshire. 

While these various elements never click in a way that would’ve elevated Lapwing into one of those few independent films that manages to break out in a big way (a rare thing to do for films of this ilk in the post-Covid feature landscape) there’s enough impressive components here that should please viewers willing to go on the dark journey the film and Patience go on as the horrors of David’s oppressive guidance and the time in which we find these characters in makes themselves more apparent. 

Unable to work with words, Douglas’s turn as Patience is sure to capture the eye of those in the know and one would expect bright things from the budding star who shines brightest despite some solid if unremarkable work from her main co-stars Scanlan and De Souza and as the brief sub-90 minute runtime wears on you can’t help but root for Patience to find her place in a world that seems hellbent on ensuring her life is as hard as it can get, leading to a tension riddled climax to a film that deserves to find a willing and accepting audience. 

Final Say – 

Not an uplifting experience but one that showcases a warts and all examination of a time and place that knew little in the way of acceptance or forgiveness, Lapwing is a solid debut from director Philip Stevens who gives his main star Hannah Douglas a notable canvas to launch her career from. 

3 bags of salt out of 5 

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