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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Fanny Lye Deliver'd (MA) - 110 minutes

A slow-moving period piece, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is mired in pain.

The year is 1657. The place: Shropshire, in the West Midlands region of England.

Fanny Lye (Maxine Peake) is a hard-working farmer’s wife, living a life of Puritan stricture.

Her husband, John (Charles Dance), is a hard and cruel, God-fearing man, a former army captain returned from war with a limp.

The pair has a 10-year-old son, Arthur (Zak Adams), who he is far from overly affectionate to.

In fact, when it comes to both his wife and his son, he has no hesitation in dishing out corporal punishment.

Returning from church one day, they notice smoke billowing from the chimney of their home.

Upon investigation, John discovers a young man, Thomas Ashbury (Freddie Fox), and woman, Rebecca Henshaw (Tanya Reynolds), in their barn.

Suspicious, John allows them to stay overnight after Thomas tells him how they were set upon and stripped naked.

Overnight, soon becomes an extended period.

It is immediately clear that Thomas has a vastly different reading of the bible than John.

Thomas is into hijinks, skulduggery and wanton fornication.

Things come to a head when Thomas and Tanya are paid a visit by the ruthless sheriff (Peter McDonald), his deputy (Perry Fitzpatrick) and the Constable (Kenneth Collard).

Subterfuge and violence are mainstays of Fanny Lye Deliver’d, which has a pivot point as matters escalate.

While it is a story of toil and heartache, it is also one of revelation.

Fanny grows strength through her ordeal.

Her life changes in a heartbeat.

I became more invested in the journey the longer the film went.

I appreciated the adult characterisations in particular.

Charles Dance is unyielding as the father and Maxine Peake is resolute as the mother.

A mischievous antiestablishment streak characterises Freddie Fox’s portrayal of Thomas Ashbury, while Tanya Reynolds brings a level of rebelliousness to her representation of Rebecca Henshaw.

I thought scriptwriter and director Thomas Clay became too self-indulgent at times.

One lengthy monologue served as a turn off and, overall, the picture could readily have been shortened without losing any impact.

In fact, doing so would, I dare say, have increased its potency.

Nevertheless, as an insight into the harsh times, Fanny Lye Deliver’d isn’t without cut through.

Rated MA, it scores a 7 out of 10.


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