I would love to say that prejudice is confined to the past, but as we see on a daily basis it is still rampant today. If there is one seemingly unbreakable connection to our ancestors is our ability to be intolerant. Stories filter through the centuries of racism, sexism, and homophobia which still trickle into today’s supposedly more enlightened society.
These dark facets of our nature collide in the brooding and brilliant Lapwing. Screenwriter Laura Turner and director Philip Stevens have crafted a striking and stunning debut feature which grapples fiercely with love, xenophobia, and the wild coasts of England.
Lapwing revolves around a coastline settlement of salt famers, somewhat led by the aggressive David. When a group of Romani settle into the local marshes, David rules and cheats them with a fierce hand – as he similarly does his fellow farmers. His mute sister-in-law Patience, who bears the titular nickname, falls in love with one of the Romani thusly triggering David into rage-induced paranoia.
Emmett Scanlan, Hannah Douglas, and Sebastian De Souza boast heart-racing performance that are as sublime as the roaring sea and coast. Scanlan, who once gifted Hollyoaks its most troubled and tantalising villain, is magnificently menacing here as the manipulative David. Funnily enough, Scanlan’s work bears somewhat of resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Power of the Dog, though it is much less refined than the former – using his fists and ferociousness more than Cumberbatch’s wits and wisdom. Scanlan is so intense and incredible here.
Douglas is a terrific newcomer and manages to convey the triumph and tragedy of her character with no dialogue. De Souza, who wowed us recently in The Great, is a fantastic presence as well and you can easily see his allure for Patience – especially when his kindness and handsomeness is offset against Scanlan’s horror. However, there is a wish to know more about Rumi, whose characterization is wasted to give way to David’s terror.
Stevens utilizes the almost barren wasteland of the coast to heighten the wildness and isolation of the central story. There is a lot of misery here which can become overbearing, but the tight script and the assured direction keep you invested through to the end credits.
Thanks to the incredible performances therein, Lapwing truly soars.