STARRING: Emily Beecham, Nathaniel Martello-White, Osy Ikhile, Sinead Matthews and Geraldine James
WRITTEN BY: Nico Mensinga
DIRECTED BY: Peter Mackie-Burns
Emily Beecham shines in Daphne, a wonderful movie that follows the titular character, a 31 year old Londoner who has given up on living life and hides behind quoting philosophy and her steely armour. Daphne floats between work, nightly drinking with friends and strangers and no strings attached sex, detached from truly engaging with people unless she has a sharp remark to cut through those close to her and give herself an excuse to be unlikable and hide away.
However, after paying witness to a stabbing, Daphne struggles to keep up her defences as she hits the bottle, pushes away friends and the chance of romance with a sensitive bouncer who indulges her clawed words. Daphne is given the option of using a victim support counsellor who in one of the best moments of the film tries to break through her hard skin with little success.
Daphne takes a modest and loose approach to storytelling, with major events like a stabbing acting as a mere trickle through the movie and not being the catalyst for larger themes and emotions. This decision benefits the movie, keeps it all grounded and makes Beecham always relatable, conveying the message that by learning to care about yourself and life again, true change can happen.
Daphne is struggling to understand why certain events do not cause her to experience operatic emotions, something that is truly relatable and all too rare in screenwriting where the easy option is to escalate the feelings and drama. Daphne believes she doesn’t need anyone and always tries to push people with away with her drinking, behaviour and sharp words but cannot see that those around her are providing her with a support network.
Emily Beecham, who won the Best Actress award at the Edinburgh Film Festival for this role, creates a truly rounded character that is always believable and all too relatable for those who have realised that their life is the crossroads of change and that sometimes we need to preempt that harsh change and bunker down before the bomb drops.
Scottish director Peter Mackie Burns, in his debut feature, creates a London using natural lighting that is stripped of the glamour and postcard shots and uses the side streets and suburbs, the use of muted colours shows a city that reflects Daphne perfectly. Much like Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, the red headed Beecham dominates every shot and every vulnerability, bravado and smile is captured and pulls us in.
It always feels like Beecham, Burns and writer Nico Mensinga go for the stripped down to the bones option and it allows the acting and writing to be the star in this character study. Daphne‘s success comes from not trying to manipulate the crowd with cliches but by allowing a rounded character to dominate every scene and moment and drive the movie.
Daphne continues the trend of strong female roles in independent cinema and this is the perfect British antidote to another thirty-something crisis movie, Bridget Jones Diary. While many will relate to the big pants and awkward dates of Bridget Jones, it’s Daphne with her privilege, an empty life filled with drink, fleeting nights of passion and cutting remarks that will be relatable to women and millennials in the audience.
It’s great to see a woman on screen that we might all know and not someone sexualised or as the supporting character to the perfect male lead. Daphne leads an unremarkable life and to build a film around that shows a great degree of confidence in the story, Emily Beecham and the audiences who might be hoping for a British version of Trainwreck.
Daphne is now on release in selected cinemas. Let us know what you thought of the movie!