Lily (Agyness Deyn) is a young woman living with epilepsy in a small northern English town. When her mother dies, she reconnects with her older brother Barry (Paul Anderson) and sets out on a journey to London to track down her youngest brother, who was taken into care many years earlier. On the journey, Lily learns more about her family, herself and the people who inhabit the world she lives in.
Agyness Deyn is virtually unrecognisable in the lead role of Electricity; sure, she has the ability to carry off some ugly clothes, but she inhabits the role of Lily so bravely and entirely, that the former model is pushed from audiences minds. Deyn is engaging, brash and brave in the role and, while Lily isn’t always likeable, she is always a character that the audience sympathises with. Lenora Chrichlow once again takes on the role of mediator and friend as Mel; she is a soft and kind presence in the film, and her kindness is a catalyst that keeps Lily going. The rest of the cast is made up of Christian Cooke, Paul Anderson and Tom Georgeson as the men who drift in and out of Lily’s life, as well as Alice Lowe and Saffron Coomber.
The screenplay, based on Ray Robinson’s novel of the same name, tells the story through Lily’s eyes and so, what could have been a fairly standard family drama is elevated somewhat through Lily’s narration, description of how her grand mal seizures – brought on after her mother hurled her down the stairs as a child – outlook and choices affect her relationship with herself and the world around her. Add to this the visual description of the seizures, and Electricity suddenly becomes a film about a young woman coming to terms with herself, her past and her medication, with some family conflict thrown in as subplot.
Director Bryn Higgins not only encourages his cast to take chances, be ugly and unpleasant on screen, but he weaves the story and the visual together to create a film that is touching, engaging and beautiful. There are times when the story drags its heels, and others when the film is unintentionally funny, and as well as this, the shiny happy ending feels a little false, tacked on and tonally out of sync with the rest of the film.
In all, however, Electricity is a beautiful, engaging and touching film about accepting oneself, one’s past, and help from other people. Deyn shines through in a decidedly unglamorous role, and the rest of the cast support her well. The pacing stumbles from time to time, and the resolution is a little too convenient, but Electricity is a film that will stay with audiences.