I first saw Fanny lye Deliver’d at the LFF in October 2019 and was impressed. Seeing it again, there is even more to appreciate. It is a well-constructed, original story which is superbly directed by Thomas Clay, who also wrote it, and finely acted by Charles Dance, Maxine Peake and Zak Adams as the family at the heart of the story. Add to this the background photography, music, by Thomas Clay, and sensitive performances from Freddie Fox and Tanya Reynolds as the couple who arrive and change Fanny’s life, and you’ve got an unmissable delight.
Set on a farm in the middle of the Shropshire countryside in 1657, we meet the family of Captain John Lye (Charles Dance). He is a God-fearing Puritan and supporter of Oliver Cromwell and his republic. John expects his wife, Fanny (Maxine Peake) and young son Arthur (Zak Adams) to do his bidding. They live a simple life with much praying.
Suddenly a couple appear running through the misty weather. Naked, they bed down in the farm’s barn. When discovered by John and Fanny, they tell a tale of being robbed of everything. It later transpires that Thomas (Freddie Fox) and his girlfriend, Rebecca (Tanya Reynolds) are on the run. Thomas instructs Fanny about the ways of the world including lovemaking. She gradually realises that there is another life.
With clear signposts along the way, the story gains in power to an explosive final act. Helped by great music from Thomas Clay, the film touches the emotions as well as appealing to the intellect. It shows us what might be the history of the past and gradual emancipation of women.
Once again Maxine Peake shows what a consummate actress she is. We see so many emotions flitting across her face as she undergoes a change from a dutiful wife to a free independent woman. Fanny is re-born. And Charles Dance matches her in the honesty of his performance. The younger cast members fulfil their parts well too and Freddie Fox is particularly good as the villain who perhaps in rescuing Fanny from her dreary life and marriage to the much older John, becomes a kind of hero.
Fanny is a fictional character, but the film is so powerful that she seems very real. Highly recommended.
Fanny Lye Deliver’d is available on Curzon Home Cinema