My Engine Lab


I watch a lot of films, possibly even too many. Ignoring the amount of time this takes, the real collateral damage might be that the minimum standard of film required for me to hang on past the first five minutes is now so stratospherically high, that almost nothing qualifies.

The amount of Netflix surfing this takes is obscene. And, considering the average life expectancy of humans for the first 70,000 years of our existence was only around 30, I may be wasting my life.

However, now and then, you come across such a brilliant gem of a movie, that suddenly the days of scrolling and groaning seem completely rational and worthwhile.  Lynn and Lucy (2020) is not only phenomenal but also reinforces to me that the true potential of storytelling is independent of budget, flashy spectacle and star power.  I don’t have an artistic film snobbery. I like things exploding on an alien planet as much as the next guy but Lynn and Lucy is simple, humanistic storytelling at its most impactful. 

It seems to me, that at least for the big players, we live in an age of risk-averse filmmaking — and I get it. The number-crunchers somehow manage to keep movies  feasible in a business environment that, firstly, includes a pandemic scenario that would have been rejected as a film script for being outlandish. Secondly, it’s an environment that has suffered through a revolution in the way we purchase and consume film and television. Can you remember when we had to watch TV at a certain time and day, or we simply missed our show, forever? That’s an unthinkable outcome in the age of streaming and it sounds almost Medieval in its brutality. Each of us now has 17 screens of various technologies to watch almost anything 24/7. Film and television are businesses with a completely different proposition. It would be difficult to overstate just how rapid and total the change has been.

One part of the solution to this pandemic/business-model-apocalypse double-whammy has been to merge large media companies into even larger conglomerates, better able to weather the storm. The other more unfortunate response has been to water down creativity, to the point where the metaphorical cordial is almost clear. 

Backing a “sure thing” makes much more sense than taking a risk with something new, so we remake prior successes, scatter sequels around like we’re feeding ducks and, for any successful film franchise, we’ve made even prequels essentially mandatory. When a genre strikes gold, we have a decade-long avalanche of its offspring. The tide seems to have gone out on kids doing magical stuff and sexy vampires have been drained bone-dry, but who would have predicted that superheroes would be quite so horrifically ubiquitous? I long ago stopped caring that a character can shoot lasers from his belly button or that the small town geek-turned-hero sees the future with the mysterious glowing nipples he received from aliens. There are notable exceptions to the blandness (such as the wonderful Watchmen series), but generally speaking, I hope Thanos clicks his fingers and half of it disappears. 

We’ve journeyed way past Jaws 3D into entire cinematic ‘universes’ built from successful films. Every Marvel release overlaps with every other like an ever-rising Jenga tower. The Lord of the Rings has films (and soon television) that will span eons. Star Wars cost Disney four billion dollars to wrench from George Lucas and now they flog it in an ever-increasing array of animated and live-action tv shows and films. Now, it ain’t all bad. Thank the moof-milkers for The Mandalorean. It salvaged my childhood from the crime against humanity that was The Rise of Skywalker. But, I digress.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. I don’t want to deprive you of the experience I had and so I will tell you virtually nothing about Lynn and Lucy. It is a working-class story of two best friends from school now living across the road from one another, in some bleak back road of an English city. They both have children. They both hope for more out of their lives. And then… it happens.

Without the benefit of special effects, I was gobsmacked. Without knowing what I was watching, I was riveted. At one point, I had to hit the spacebar to give myself a moment to recover. Ten seconds later, I realised I wasn’t breathing, my face frozen, mouth open. 

Small story, big drama, set in a galaxy right now, right here. Glamour free but with an attraction to the people and their lives. Gritty without maudlin social preaching or virtue signalling. Layered but simple. If you love a good villain, the fake-tanned hairdresser is more terrifying than Darth Vader with a red wine hangover.

It makes me think: wouldn’t our reality make an incredible cinematic universe?

Here’s the trailer…but don’t watch it. Go in cold for maximum impact.