For her first feature, Pin Cushion, British director Deborah Haywood digs into her own teenage memories and unearths something eccentric, peculiar and utterly original.
At the centre is a relationship of cloying co-dependency as Iona (Lily Newmark, Solo: A Star Wars Story), a pale-faced teenager, and her hunchbacked mother, Lyn (Joanna Scanlan, Getting On, The Thick of It), contentedly share meals, pet names and even a bed. Recently arrived in a small Midlands town, they are desperate to make friends. But Lyn, mentally slow and physically burdened, invites only the scorn of her neighbours, while Iona, geeky and ginger-haired, is a too-tempting target for the über-mean girls at her new high school. Brutally exploiting her social and sexual naïveté, they enact a campaign of escalating humiliations.
Holding tight to both as they struggle to fit into a community that patently doesn’t want them, director Deborah Haywood — who shot the film in her hometown and describes it as “emotionally biographical” — fashions a transcendent portrait of mental illness and bullying. Deliberately exaggerated, she shows how slights are magnified when you’re young or otherwise vulnerable.