By Mitchell Bozzetto (Australia)
High School can be a tough time for anyone and depending on your class status or ability to fit in, it can be much more difficult. As cruel and savage as it is, unfortunately it seems to be part of growing up. I’m sure everyone has experienced some type of bullying in their time and if you have, then be prepared to experience it all over again with Deborah Haywood’s feature debut, Pin Cushion. Excited to start their new life in a new town, Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and her young daughter Iona (Lily Newmark) are eccentric with each other and share a bond that is stronger than most mother and daughter relationships. Whilst they are comfortable around each other, the pair aren’t exactly the most outgoing people and this is made obvious through their incredibly awkward encounters with anyone they come in contact with.
However; being in a new town, Iona sees this as an opportunity to make some real friends that aren’t just her mother, which in return strikes jealously through Lyn who decides to try and make some friends of her own. Iona soon becomes ‘best friends’ with Keeley (Sacha Cordy-Nice), Stacie (Saskia Paige Martin), and Chelsea (Bethany Antonia) but whilst she considers them friends the feelings aren’t mutual as the girls act more like frenemies (a person with whom one if friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry) than friends. Lyn also believes she has made a new friend through her neighbour Belinda, after she lends a ladder to her. However; after Lyn goes to her neighbour’s house with a cake and to ask for her ladder back it’s soon obvious that Belinda doesn’t share the same feelings and Lyn ends up leaving empty handed. Both Iona and Lyn continue to lie to each other and pretend that everything is going great but as we continue to see them try and fit in we know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Neither of them have the courage to admit this to one another, so we seem them retreat deeper and deeper into a world of fantasy and deception which does nothing but drive them apart. Deborah Haywood’s directional debut is a bold and tremendous effort that brings to life the elucidation of adulthood through a unique fairy tale lens. Whilst the storyline is nothing new, the way it’s told is certainly original which allows the film to stand out from the rest of the crowd. It’s refreshing to see a new filmmaker tackle such a serious and dark topic in a different and peculiar way. Joanna Scanlan and Lily Newmark do a great job as mother and daughter, they manage to make every scene they’re in incredibly awkward to a point where it hurts to watch, you just want to jump through the screen and save them from such cruelty.
At times though, the acting felt quite adequate however; this could come down to the character’s personalities and the occasional sterile/un-real dialogue. Haywood and cinematographer Nicola Daley should definitely be commended on the way this film looks. The fantasy scenes bring such a unique and beautiful flavour to the film. They manage to take you away from the dark and brutal tone that the rest of the film bestows upon you. Being shot on a small budget undeniably makes the film what it is, it allows the devastating undertone to be present at all times and create a gritty atmosphere.
Whilst the film deals with some very real and serious topics, at times it almost pushes the envelope too far and we end up in a place that feels too farfetched, which in return denies us of feeling a connection. For the most part though, Pin Cushion manages to throw us into a cruel world where we helplessly watch on which sadly is often the case in real life. Don’t expect a heart-warming, coming of age tale as this is the complete opposite. Strap yourself in and get prepared, as Pin Cushion is definitely an emotional rollercoaster and at the end of the ride you’ll want to make sure you’re always nice to people.