Single mom Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and her teenage daughter Iona (Lily Newmark) have just moved to a quaint English town hoping for a better life. Layered head to toe in the finest cat-lady fashions and oversized thrift store knits, their kooky Wes Anderson-esque world feels inviting and warm. But Lyn’s hunchback and mild manner make her an easy target in a neighborhood full of bullies. While Iona seems content with the unorthodox relationship she has with her mother, she does daydream of a more glamorous life and yearns for the companionship of girls her own age. The more she’s allowed into the inner circle of a vulgar group of girls at school, the more distant and ashamed of her mother she becomes.
Deborah Haywood’s debut feature Pin Cushion is a vibrant and original coming of age tale. It explores the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, the toxicity of female friendships, and the generational effects of bullying. Joanna Scanlan is exceptional as the painfully timid and fragile Lyn — the type of woman who begins every sentence with “sorry” and utters a “thank you” in reply to even the most horrible insults. She lives solely for her daughter, hoping to shield her from the cruelties of the world. But Iona’s youth and naiveté coupled with an overwhelming desire to fit in makes her bolder than Lyn, creating a rift between mother and daughter and putting them on a path that will inevitably lead to a breaking point.
Lily Newmark gives a raw and realistic performance as the sheltered teenage girl navigating new and heightened desires. From makeup and boys to her first drink of alcohol, her vulnerability and almost desperate need to be someone different will resonate — especially with a female audience. Iona’s inability to grasp that the intentions of her new “friends”, led by the insufferable Keeley (Sacha Cordy-Nice), are overtly cruel is sometimes painful to watch. In fact, Haywood’s portrayal of some of the more graphic themes of being a teenage girl, such as Iona’s sexual awakening and the bullying she endures, is so brutally honest it may be uncomfortable for some viewers.
Pin Cushion is a whimsical and achingly sad story about a mother incapable of confronting the cruelties of the world with a daughter she has to protect. If only their bond were enough for Iona, they could stay safely locked away baking cakes and dancing. Together. But every little girl grows up. And every mother has to let her daughter go. Audiences will fall in love with these endearing characters. They’ll laugh at their quirkiness, cheer for their triumphs, and cry for their suffering. And they’ll carry them with them when they go.