Cinema: Badly behaved women

editorial image

Here’s to badly behaved women on screen! Daphne, opening this week, is a wonderful celebration of a woman determined to do her own thing: to defy ladylike behavioural expectations and to forge her own path through the complexities of modern London living.

From first-time feature filmmaker Peter Mackie Burns - who will be joining us at The Showroom following the screening on Monday 2 October at 8:30pm - this film shines as an example of the great quality of film that the British independent sector is currently producing.

The titular character is played by Emily Beecham in her first starring role. She is in every scene, and her performance really brings the film to life. Daphne is a woman in her early thirties who works as an assistant chef, stays up too late, drinks and smokes too much and doesn’t really seem to have her life on track.

Moments of joy are found tasting cheese, cooking alone and enjoying rare minutes with her guard down among strangers, while to relax, she reads Žižek and pontificates about the meaning of love and life. Daphne is single and her only real friends seem to be her boss and a couple of women she knows, but no one is really close to her. She is full of quick retorts and, despite her protestations to the opposite, she is clearly lonely and miserable.

When one evening she is witness to a truly shocking crime, Daphne is forced to look closer at her life in terms of her ambitions and relationships. Daphne is one of those rare films that is great to watch and yet the lead character is far from likeable: she is selfish, spoilt and unfriendly.

The reasons for this behaviour aren’t fully explained, however, we do get small insights into how she might have ended up this way through stilted and combative interactions with her mother, Rita. Played brilliantly by Geraldine James, Rita is experiencing her own personal journey – one of a spiritual kind – and is obviously trying to connect with her daughter, yet is rejected at almost every turn. Daphne keeps the world and all its inhabitants at arm’s length.

Often compared to the brilliant TV series Fleabag from Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Daphne is another portrait of dysfunction, however, without the self-referential piece-to-camera work.

It is interesting that both stories are London-based, leaving me to wonder if there is a particular type of loneliness that the capital can foster in a person.