The Movie Waffler New to Prime Video - LAPWING | The Movie Waffler

New to Prime Video - LAPWING

lapwing review
Trouble brews in 16th century England when a young woman falls for a gypsy.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Philip Stevens

Starring: Hannah Douglas, Emmett J Scanlan, Sebastian De Souza

lapwing poster

Patience is the name of the central character in director Philip Stevens' feature debut Lapwing. It's also a virtue you'll need in strong supply if you're to make it through this gruelling piece of medieval misery porn. Like many of the films of Lars Von Trier, Lapwing heaps abuse on a vulnerable female protagonist, but with none of the artistry or imagination of Von Trier on show it's a dispiriting and empty experience.

The film takes place on the windswept Lincolnshire coast of 1555. England's Queen Mary I has passed the Egyptians Act, which demands all "Egyptians", i.e gypsies, must either renounce their lifestyle or leave England's shores. Salt farmer David (Emmett J Scanlan) has struck a deal with one group of gypsies, taking payment and allowing them to camp nearby until a boat arrives to take them out of the country. What the gypsies don’t know is that David plans to betray them.

lapwing review

That sure sounds like a premise that resonates with today's situation on the English coast, with David posited as a 16th century cousin of the sort of opportunists exploiting asylum seekers' desperation to cross the English Channel. The film surprisingly never leans into this aspect, focussing instead on the aforementioned Patience (Hannah Douglas), David's semi-mute sister-in-law.

Patience falls for a handsome young gypsy, Rumi (Sebastian De Souza), which inspires rage in David, who has long had his eye on the young woman, along with the other men in his camp. A gritty riff on Romeo & Juliet follows, with Patience bearing the physical brunt of David's jealousy.

lapwing review

Giving the heroine a disability adds an extra layer of what feels like unnecessary cruelty to an already dour watch. It's a cheap way of getting the audience to sympathise with Patience, as the script by Laura Turner never really gives her much in the way of a personality beyond being a one-note victim. Douglas is admittedly very good, but it's all a bit Simple Jack.

Douglas's largely silent performance is countered by Scanlan's foaming at the mouth antics. He's so over the top that he often drags the movie into the realm of camp. Scanlan performs with an Irish accent, which undermines the film's cultural setting. If 16th century England is this xenophobic, how would an Irishman be able to hold a community under his control?

lapwing review

When the broadly written and performed characters are kept in the distance, Lapwing offers images of stark beauty courtesy of cinematographer Stewart MacGregor. Lee Gretton's score works overtime to create the sort of mood the script and direction botch.

Mixing Shakespeare with folk horror and the Manson Family sounds like a winning idea, but in Lapwing it results in an over-cooked stew that leaves a sour taste. If you're looking for insight into England's history of xenophobia, you won’t find much depth in this superficial drama.

 is on Prime Video UK now.