A MODEL PERFORMANCE
Model Agyness Deyn swaps glitz for hard-knock tumbles in Bryn Higgins’ potent drama, a low-budget Brit-flick scuffed with struggle and heart. Amazingly, despite tackling the tricky role of an epileptic young woman in a deliberately ‘de-glamourised’ performance, Deyn makes the shift look natural. Boldly styled, boldly acted and (mostly) smartly adapted from Ray Robinson’s novel, Electricity only occasionally falters, and then not because of its star.
Deyn aces all stops between damaged and defiant as Lily, whose mum lobbed her down the stairs at two, and who suffers re-enactments of that drop as flooring grand mal seizures: “Alice falling down the rabbit hole,” as she puts it. Lily is hardly devastated when mum dies; no surprises there. But she is moved to visit London’s mean streets in search of estranged kid brother Mikey (Christian Cooke), so she can give him his due inheritance.
Other kinds of familial inheritance provide sturdy thematic ballast, though Higgins and scriptwriter Joe Fisher inherit some wobbly aspects of Robinson’s novel. Credulity cracks when Lenora Crichlow’s good Samaritan Mel takes Lily into her posh pad on first meeting. Later, coincidences mount as key revelations emerge in dead-end pubs, like they never do.
But Electricity is more character study than manhunt mystery, and it embraces that study with style and impact. When Lily suffers a seizure, Higgins’ direction adopts her surreal, scrambled perspective with bad-trip power. The geezer-ific likes of Paul Anderson set off performance fireworks in support, but any flourishes serve to throw Deyn’s controlled delivery into the spotlight – and she doesn’t flinch. Making us understand Lily at her most reckless, Deyn’s sensitive but never sentimentalised portrait of a wounded, wilful woman holds firm all the way to the careful climax, which moves without resort to miracle cures or shock tactics.