Fanny Lye Deliver'd (2019)
Directed by: Thomas Clay
Written by: Thomas Clay
Starring: Charles Dance, Freddie Fox, Kenneth Collard, Maxine Peak, Perry Fitzpatrick, Peter McDonald, Tanya Reynolds, Zak Adams
FANNY LYE D’LIVERED
Written and Directed by Thomas Clay
In 1657, during the Cromwellian Protectorate after the civil war, England was an oppressed place to live, in particular for women. The puritan patriarchy sees titular character Fanny Lye married and with a young son living at a farmhouse in Shropshire but this is not a life Fanny saw for herself. Forced to call her husband Sir and abide by the Godly scriptures, Fanny is nothing more than a servant to her husband’s whim; to cook, clean, bear children and look after her husband. If either she or son Arthur step out of line, they get caned for their trouble. A life of joy this is not. However, she begins to see life in a very different way with the arrival of young married couple, Thomas and Rebecca, who claim to have been robbed of all their Earthly possessions, including the clothes off their back, and ask for shelter at the Lye family home. Surly ex-soldier John isn’t too keen at first but decides it be the Godly thing to do, to look after those in need. Though their story initially appears believable, after a visit from the local constable, the county sheriff and his deputy, John and Fanny realise the couple haven’t exactly been telling the truth.
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D is a different kind of period drama and certainly not what I expected. It deals with many subjects through a situation which sees the Lye family under house arrest at the hands of the two strangers in their home. Whereas most home invasion thrillers are situations to fear from sadistic torture, this particular one is more of an awakening to new ideas about what is good in the world and how one should free themselves from the bonds forced upon them by the puritan populus. John is the strict and stubborn member of the family, a man much harder to break, but Fanny has long been living an oppressed life so when Thomas and Rebecca encourage her to free herself, she summons the inner strength to let herself go.
Maxine Peake and Charles Dance are fantastic in their roles as Fanny and John. You can see from the very beginning that Fanny Lye has a rebellious nature to her; that she knows her life of being subjugated by John isn’t a life at all, really. The arrival of the young couple brings her hope as suddenly she’s not alone in this isolated world of hers. It’s not long before Freddie Fox’s cheeky Thomas Ashbury puts the glint in Fanny’s eye as he lights the fuse of her spiritual and sexual awakening, one that will change all their lives.
As much as Dance’s John is a domineering character, who sees it his duty to punish and keep his family in check, there are signs of him at least acknowledging Thomas’ radical ideas and pushing himself beyond the boundaries he’s set himself. An injured war veteran, John always walks with a stick and even then he limps. His wife Fanny is the one who does all the chores in the home, as any housewife at the time would do. However, when Thomas and Rebecca (Tanya Reynolds) reveal their true nature, John is forced to fetch his own pail of water from the well – unaided. He stumbles and falls, but he makes it. You can see the humiliation upon his face and the way he holds his body of having to do a task that is beneath him but at the same time you can see him realise that he can do it himself – almost humbling himself. John is not a completely awful character but simply a sign of the times. It is Thomas and Rebecca, with their new ideas about free love, equal partnerships and right to do whatever one chooses, that seems out of this world, and to the rest of the nation, ungodly. It’s their ideas that threaten the very land and what appears to have brought trouble to the Lye door. However, it’s neither Thomas and Rebecca the Lye family should fear, but authority itself, pushing the viewer to think about what it must’ve been like to live in such a time period and how we have evolved over the centuries to where we are now.
As I’ve mentioned, there’s a sexual element to FANNY LYE DELIVER’D, which feels like the crux of the film in many ways, and thus there’s elements of nudity in the film. These scenes feel detached from the rest of the aesthetic, maybe due to the language used, and seem nought more than titillation except for the point at which Fanny finally gives in to her carnal desires, freeing herself from her bonds. This is what the film ultimately targets: Fanny seeing beyond her puritan position and becoming her own person. You could say it’s about female empowerment; the characters of Thomas and Rebecca certainly encourage the idea that every person is their own master of their wants and needs, and it is here where we see Fanny’s mentality change.
A brutal climax shifts the vibe of the movie from home invasion to survival thriller, albeit spoiled with odd, almost panto-esque comedy angles. This change in direction ups the tempo somewhat and will have you rooting for Fanny to become the woman she needs to be to survive. It’s thrilling and edge-of-your-seat at times as we see Fanny’s transformation finally complete.
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D; where period drama meets feminist thriller.