Framed around the fracturing friendship of titular college classmates Lynn (Roxanne Scrimshaw) and Lucy (Nichola Burley), writer/director Fyzal Boulifa’s feature debut is a story of evolution and escalation where the same schoolyard squabbles are painted in a more harmful light, one that runs the risk of corrupting everyone caught in it. Opening on the christening of Lucy’s first child, an event more important to Lynn than it is to Lucy, a shared experience meant to solidify their friendship, Boulifa lays the groundwork for an emotionally shattering experience with insidious skill. For Lynn, the expectations of others are everything, fitting in with the crowd is vital, a wish of a perpetually ostracised teenager carried over into adulthood. Lucy just wants to enjoy herself and her new baby cramps her style even if it brings her closer to Lynn. While Lynn had years to get used to motherhood, getting pregnant young, Lucy is struggling with the newness of it and her aggressive boyfriend doesn’t help matters. An inciting incident seems inevitable but Boulifa constantly delays it, creating a powder keg of tense judgement, unspoken cracks in a friendship filled in with the notion of female solidarity and loneliness.
When it finally arrives, the film opens up, introducing a community baying for blood and most of all gossip. The classic high school rumour mill here is turned up to eleven, with Lynn falling prey to the idle musings of her colleagues at the hairdressers she works at due to her husband convalescing at home due to a workplace injury. Here the truth doesn’t matter, just the story and Lynn desperation to fit in drags her further and further from Lucy. However this isn’t Mean Girls, Lynn and Lucy’s actions are a mixture of deplorable and sympathetic and everything in between and Scrimshaw in particular plays to just how lost Lynn is in a mess of conflicting voices and opinions, desperate to pick the right one, never knowing what that is. Lynn and Lucy’s story, despite the small town discussion of heroes and villains or in how they put it, the good ones and the wronguns, shows that clinging to that black and white idea is dangerous, people are more than one thing and denigrating them or pushing them aside because of a snap judgement is something we never really grow out of, it just becomes even more toxic. A harmful but masterful start from Boulifa with a standout performance by Scrimshaw, Lynn + Lucy is British cinema at its most relevant and intimate and the best British film of the year.