Every so often, a film lands in your lap that’s so special, so unique, it makes you excited to venture into the director’s back catalogue. The excitement is twofold when you discover it’s their feature length debut. Deborah Haywood is our director, and Pin Cushion is that film, and what a debut it is.
Iona (Lily Newmark) and Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) are new in town. They’re hard to miss, with their hodgepodge outfits and incredibly close mother-daughter relationship. They’re each other’s best friends, along with Budgie the budgie. Their happy bubble might soon burst though, as Iona starts attending her local secondary school, where she meets Keeley (Sacha Cordy-Nice), Chelsea (Bethany Antonia) and Stacie (Saskia Paige Martin), the three most popular/terrifying girls in her year. Desperate to be accepted, Iona studies their every move, and when she’s not closely watching she’s daydreaming about her ‘other life’ – her mother (played by Girls Aloud‘s Nadine Coyle) is an air stewardess, and the girls adore Iona’s company.
Meanwhile, Lyn faces her own problems. Their neighbours think she’s odd, the local community centre isn’t the most welcoming of places, and she’s lonely. This feeling is only exacerbated as Iona starts to spend more of her time with the girls, with both characters making out that everything is fine – Lyn goes barn dancing (she watches through the window), while Iona gets a makeover (the girls laugh and pick on her).
Almost fairytale-like in its quality, shooting style and themes, Pin Cushion is a bittersweet coming-of-age story that really lets its main players shine. You can hardly take your eyes off of Newmark, another ‘newbie’ to the feature length world; every move is precise and thought out, every emotion portrayed through her huge, childlike eyes. Scanlan, known for years of work on the small screen, is equally as drawing, playing the melancholy hunchback, almost like a local legend, who only wants the best for her daughter. Cordy-Nice as awful Keeley is the stuff of teenage nightmares, a spoilt, calculating vision of poker straight hair, glossed lips, phone in hand waiting for you to slip so she has the chance to humiliate you.
One of the best elements to Pin Cushion is that you truly don’t know where it’s going to end up. Both Iona and Lyn sink deeper into their respective holes, not realising that their safety nets are each other. However, to get back to the surface, sacrifices have to be made – will our fairytale have a happy ending after all? I fear not.
Nominated for seven awards and winner of one (Best Feature Film at the 2017 Créteil International Women’s Film Festival), Pin Cushion is deserving of high praise. Let yourself fall for Iona and Lyn – it’ll be worth the heartbreak.