What was once quirky decoration over her bedroom walls now reveals itself as scrawled post-seizure assurances and the glass front of her cashier’s desk becomes both protection and a physical realisation of the restrictions of her illness. We live and breathe the world through her eyes as she fights for a semblance of ‘normalcy’ through the erratic ‘electrical storms’ that indiscriminately shroud her mind: “Here’s the breath, here’s the breeze, here’s the shimmer and I’m Alice falling down the rabbithole.” The stakes are raised when her abusive mother – the cause of her epilepsy – dies and Lily and her elder brother Barry (Paul Anderson) sell their family home. So begins her journey to London in search of wayward, younger brother, Mikey (Christian Cooke) in the hope of rebuilding their once close relationship and giving him his rightful share of inheritance.
In the capital, a relatively naïve Lily comes across a mixed bag of characters with varying degrees of moral integrity and is ultimately put up by an almost saint like Mel (Lenora Crichlow). It is here that Electricity loses its way a little and what we anticipated might be a perilous tale of catharsis and closure takes on a different tack, becoming a little unstuck in its focus. There is over-exposition in what are ultimately perfunctory characters and unwarranted mystery around others such as Al (Tom Georgeson), not only taking us away from Lily but more importantly the path to Mikey, forgiveness and understanding.
And yet Electricity is an important film, which gives a real insight into the cinematically underrepresented world of the millions of people living with epilepsy worldwide. There is great respect in the portrayal of this neurological disorder paired with bold and innovative visuals. In a conscious decision by director Bryn Higgins, we never witness Lily’s seizures from the outside in and as such we are never allowed to see her as a victim.
Deyn soars in this her first leading role; encompassing Lily in all her complexity, effortlessly portraying her as both strong-minded and yet willingly vulnerable. Part-funded by the Wellcome Trust and with stunning cinematography by Si Bell, this is as accurate and strikingly immersive a representation of a young woman living with epilepsy we could ever hope for. It’s just a shame the plot doesn’t quite match up to the gratifying visual experience and acting performances.