Lynn+Lucy, dir. by Fyzal Boulifa - LFF 2019
Wednesday 16 October 2019, by
The Mayfair Hotel, where I’m about to meet Lynn + Lucy writer and director Fyza Boulifa and newcomer Roxanne Scrimshaw (Lynn), seems very far away from the film’s environment. Set in Harlow, the subtly dark and beautifully acted narrative follows two young mothers who have also been best friends all their lives, in spite (or maybe because of) their very different personas: Lucy the party animal, Lynn almost the wallflower. But when a tragic accident occurs and the local community reacts, their bond is tested to its limit. Boulifa’s portrayal of the two women feels refreshingly authentic, giving us fully-rounded, three-dimensional, complex female characters.
What made you want to tell this story?
F. B.: I read a story about a woman who lost her child and who’d been accused of murdering him, along with her boyfriend in Bristol. She was arrested but subsequently released back in the community as she was found innocent. Despite this, she was harassed to the point that she ended up killing herself. The story really stayed with me. It wasn’t until I thought of having the character of her best friend as the main character that it began to feel more like a film idea. It was also an opportunity for me to explore an environment like the one I grew up in. Because the story dealt with the death of a baby and social hysteria, it had to have at its heart these women, these mothers who live and die by their ability to take care of their children.
What resonated with you in terms of environment?
F.B.: I grew up in Leicester in a very working class area and have Moroccan origins. I wanted to explore my experience of England in this kind of world. But the film is slightly decontextualised, it lacks specificity of context so can talk about bigger things.
How did you find each other?
R.S.: This was my first bit of acting. I came across a Facebook post on our community page from someone working for a casting agency, looking for two females to cast. I emailed saying I was interested and received a reply wishing me good luck. I didn’t really trust it, part of me thought it might be a scam. A week and half later, my mum showed me more information about it in the local paper, so thought it might be more legit. So I went back to my original message, sent a couple of pictures and said “if you want me, call me,” and they did.
F.B.: We had a huge casting process. I looked at both professional actors and non-professionals. It’s a feature, and it’s very dramatic, so although I really like working with non-professional actors I thought I’d look at professionals as well. But to be honest, there are so few working class actors in the UK today… It’s really changed, you go back 30 years, there were many more. Acting is becoming more and more elite in England. However, it did also feel apt to have a non-professional playing Lynn, I wanted Lynn to “be”, I didn’t want anyone “playing down”, I didn’t want anyone playing working class cliches. So we were very happy to find Roxanne.
Tell us more about the filming process.
F.B.: I had Roxanne work alongside Nichola Burley, who’s an experienced actress. However, she had been street-cast (in Dominic Savage’s Love and Hate). So I found this mirroring of Roxanne’s experience interested and Nicola really understood what she was going through.
R.S.: We don’t have access to these kinds of opportunities where I come from. I didn’t realise how big things were, so it was very exciting. The first person I met was Nicola and so many things she said rung true to me, so we really hit it off. She held my hand throughout the entire process, gave me tips and advice. Every actor I worked with was amazing and everyone worked together.
F.B.: There was no sense of hierarchy. It started with Roxanne and Nicola who have similar backgrounds and that set the tone for everyone else. Roxanne didn’t have a script and we shot chronologically. She was discovering the story as we went. I didn’t want Roxanne to judge Lynn and I thought perhaps the script would be problematic to interpret for a first-time actor.
What did you want people to take home from the film?
R.S.: Since watching the film, it’s made me realise how boxed in I am in my life and in my situation. I would just be doing my 9 to 5, barely living, just about paying my rent, just existing. My child would follow the same process, find a job in the area, find a husband in the area. It made me realise there is more to life. First time Lynn breaks out of the community, of the area, she doesn’t know how to interpret that. And that’s when we become fully aware of the impact of our choices and decisions.
F.B.: I feel it is open-ended. Lynn is looking for an identity and because of the limited opportunities she has, she finds it in the worst possible place. It’s a very human tragedy, that we need to create another to know who we are. And Lucy becomes the “other” to Lynn who helps create her identity. Increased political polarisation these days means it feels like people are attaching themselves to certain identities and that’s when things can become violent.