Writer-director Deborah Haywood makes her feature directorial debut with the surreal and whimsical mother-daughter nightmare “Pin Cushion,” driven by a singular vision and masterful control of a unique tone, which tiptoes the line of beauty and terror.
Drawing on references from “Mean Girls” to “Carrie,” Haywood tells the story of misfit mother-daughter duo Lyn (Joanna Scanlan) and Iona (Lily Newmark), who are new in town. Yearning for freedom and companionship, the adolescent Iona gravitates toward a particularly nasty group of mean girls, who expose her to the world of vanity, vapes and vibrators. She lies to her mother, who is devastated at their broken bond, and lies right back about her own nonexistent friends and dates.
Both women retreat into rich fantasy worlds, but the shame and humiliation Iona finds at the hands of her supposed friends is far too real and realistic. Lyn, dealing with her own generation of mean moms, finds her voice in defense of herself and her daughter.
Haywood, with production designer Francesca Massariol, costume designer Andy Blake and cinematographer Nicola Daley, crafts the world of these two women with a distinctly feminine feel — shades of pink, soft textures, homespun handicraft. There’s pleasure to be found in cakes and kittens, but the outside world is cruel and harsh.
Scanlan is stunning as the odd but fiercely loving Lyn. She regards Iona warily, knowingly, seeing into her future and what she’s walking into, but with no way to stop it. The choices she makes to save her daughter are dramatic, but in this special world they’ve stitched together, it turns out that anything is possible.
Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes
Playing: Starts July 20, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills