Maxine Peake gives a wonderful performance as Fanny Lye in writer/director
Thomas Clay’s period drama Fanny Lye Deliver’d.
Set on an isolated Shropshire farm in 1657, the farm was completely built
for the shoot, Fanny Lye lives a humble existence with her puritan husband
John (Charles Dance) and young son Arthur (Zak Adams).
If living on a farm where every step means walking throw mud and that is
completely covered in fog for most of the time wasn’t bad enough Fanny’s
life of constant chores and work is made even worse by having to live with
a man who believes that any human pleasure is a sin in the eyes of God and
takes to beating her and her young son for just laughing and frolicking in
the farm yard.
Things change for the God-fearing family when their daily life is
interrupted when they discover two strangers (Freddie Fox and Tanya
Reynolds) hiding in their barn, pleading for help claiming to have been
robbed and left for dead, the young pair initially ingratiate themselves
with their reluctant new hosts.
Things at first go well as Fanny embraces her new and progressive guests,
however it’s not long before things turn sour when the town’s sheriff
(Perry Fitzpatrick), who is searching for the pair, pays a visit to the Lye
It’s here that things take a turn for the worse as the interlopers reveal
their criminal intentions and take the Lye’s hostage in their own home.
Clay builds the tension well up to the point where the Lye’s are taken
hostage. The middle section where Fanny and her family are held hostage and
Fanny starts to doubt her tyrannical husband and the societal structures
that dictate her life feels slightly dragged out leading to a loss of the
tension that been build up so well. Freddie Fox’s long monologue speeches
don’t help the pacing.
Things do however pick up considerably in the final third as things come to
a brutal and totally unexpected conclusion.
Peake is mesmerising as the subservient Fanny whilst it’s hard to imagine
anyone other than Dance playing the tyrannical John. Fanny Lye Deliver’d is
a film that whilst set in 17th Century England has a 21 st Century message about the role of woman in society. The
middle section could have been tighter but nevertheless it’s certainly
worth sticking around for the brutal and unexpected ending.