The 17th century was a fascinating time for England. The way of life was changing. Whilst puritan and overtly religious sentiments still ruled – keeping women locked to their husband and any thought of wicked, free, and sexual behaviour abhorred. However, there came to be many different voices who wished to free people from their society and they were pursued and persecuted.
Sluicing down these voices from Cavaliers to Ranters into one singular microcosm, indie director Thomas Clay presents friction in a farm and a kept woman about to break free.
Set in 1674, the film sees the titular character Fanny stuck in a loveless marriage to the overtly religious John. Unafraid to punish for perceived sins, Fanny is trapped. After a trip to the village, the pair come home to discover a man and a woman – Thomas and Rebecca – seeking shelter in their barn. The perceived husband and wife say they were attacked by robbers but when a vicious sheriff appears to hunt them down, it becomes clear that they are dissenters and champion for free will. Will their youthful new viewpoints begin to turn Fanny’s head and set her free?
Thomas Clay has clearly poured a lot into this somewhat passion project. The attention to historical detail in dialogue, setting, and costuming bring to life the period. Swamped with claustrophobic mist and mud, Clay has a keen eye for our location and setting can bring about the heightened emotions of all involved.
Maxine Peake is superb as Fanny and dives into the bridled emotions of a room who has to adhere to the whims of her violent and punishing husband. When Thomas gifts her desire and free thought, then Fanny becomes undone. It is with Peake’s performance that this shine.
Charles Dance and Tanya Reynolds are great in their historical roles but Freddie Fox is perhaps the other to put a lot of spirit. As the devilish Thomas, an unrecognisable Fox becomes this hot-headed man ready to seduce Fanny to his way of thinking, even if it comes with its own issues. It is an interesting role and Fox greatly swaggers his way through it.
This is all good but Fanny Lye Deliver’d suffers from a lacking script which fails to give enough drive in Fanny. Her head-turning seems sudden and by the middle climax, it feels a bit false. The ending, therefore, comes a bit shockingly when it turns from intense, somewhat erotic drama to near full blown horror. There is also a suffocating score which seems out of place most of the time. There aren’t beautiful and studious silent moments to let us sit with the characters in their intense dialogue. Instead this overbearing music takes over and distracts from the dialogue.
Fanny Lye Deliver’d is good but not as tightly woven as it could’ve been. Thankfully to a stunning production and costume design and some brilliant acting, Fanny Lye Deliver’d is sav’d.