Maxine Peake leads Thomas Clay’s refreshing genre film, Fanny Lye Deliver’d (The Delivered in the US), about a woman’s emancipation. We named Fanny Lye Deliver’d one of the best films of the first half of 2020 (based on its UK release date.
For its US VOD release, he British film Fanny Lye Deliver’d has been retitled as The Delivered. The poster also suggests that Fanny Lye’s husband, played by Charles Dance, is the lead of the film, when it is the story of Fanny Lye, played by Maxine Peake. The film is now available on VOD in the US and UK.
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It’s hard not to be skeptical when you hear a film is a feminist period genre film about a woman’s emancipation, written and directed by a man. But where films like The VVitch and Gwen (also starring Peake) failed, Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d delivers a smart, complex, central character, in a film that understands the world she must negotiate.
The film is a seventeenth-century home invasion narrative centred around Fanny Lye (Maxine Peake), the miserable wife of a puritanical abuser (Charles Dance, exquisite), who eventually liberates herself from multiple forms of male oppression. The catalyst for this is a couple (Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds) on the run who arrive nude at their house, as if out of the garden of Eden, and stay first as their guests and then as their captors. As forward-thinking young people, they open Fanny’s eyes to new ideas about sexuality and women’s rights, but even they have their own agenda that Fanny must deal with.
Fanny Lye Deliver’d is a sumptuous, visual delight. Writer-director Thomas Clay has meticulously designed his shots and camera movement to keep us in the action and understand the characters. The film was notoriously difficult to complete because he insisted on using period techniques to build the sets. As a result, the film is rich in detail, taking you back to that time. Michael O’Connor’s costumes are so rich in texture, you want to reach into the screen to touch them.
But most importantly, the performances are uniformly excellent from this all-star cast. Maxine Peake gives a quiet, thoughtful performance as a woman sizing up those around her as she figures out how to survive and eventually thrive. Charles Dance is still stunningly beautiful and lends nuance to an abusive husband who ultimately proves loyal to his wife. Freddie Fox is nigh unrecognizable with facial hair as the tempting and conniving young man, Thomas, who walks into Fanny’s life. And Tanya Reynolds (Emma., Sex Education) is equally compelling as a woman seeking her own salvation and perhaps a bit too enamoured by the charismatic, self-serving Thomas.
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