SIN­GLE BRIGHT FE­MALE

New­comer Emily Beecham takes cen­tre stage as hard-liv­ing Daphne in the new Brit indie

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS IAN FREER DAPHNE IS IN CIN­E­MAS FROM 29 SEPTEM­BER

SOME FILM­MAK­ERS GO af­ter ev­ery de­mo­graphic. For Peter Mackie Burns, di­rec­tor of UK indie Daphne, he was af­ter “the myth­i­cal fig­ure of a Bri­tish woman go­ing to the cin­ema and see­ing her own life on screen”. The ace in Burns’ pocket is star Emily Beecham. Best known for a turn in the Coen broth­ers’ Hail, Cae­sar!, her per­for­mance de­liv­ers that rare cin­e­matic thing: a com­plex, con­tra­dic­tory, recog­nis­able woman.

“We felt we re­lated to things in the char­ac­ter you don’t [of­ten] see rep­re­sented,” she says. “You do in Amer­i­can in­dies like Mar­garet and Ob­vi­ous

Child, but not films set in Ele­phant And Cas­tle.” Daphne is a chef, drink­ing, drug­ging and shag­ging her way around South Lon­don. She owns a pet snake (Scratch), reads phi­los­o­phy (Zizek), and ex­er­cises a sharp tongue (“You, sir, are a glo­ri­ous cunt”). Slowly, she re-eval­u­ates her life af­ter wit­ness­ing a vi­o­lent in­ci­dent. Re­ally, though, it’s a 31-year-old woman in an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis in an un­car­ing me­trop­o­lis. Beecham is winning, caus­tic, bro­ken, but al­ways real. “She is noth­ing like the char­ac­ter,” says Burns. “She’s very shy, doesn’t swear. It’s a real tes­ta­ment to her skill.”

The char­ac­ter started life as ‘Lucy’ in Burns’ 2014 short Happy Birth­day To Me, also star­ring Beecham. The pair, with writer Nico Mensinga, de­vel­oped the role with char­ac­ter read­ing lists, playlists and a 200-page back­story. “I un­der­stand the feel­ing of be­ing iso­lated in a city and want­ing to con­nect but just set­tling be­cause the city is such a big place,” says Beecham. “She doesn’t know what she wants from life and tells her­self it doesn’t bother her, but it does. She’s a lit­tle bit lost.”

With few ex­cep­tions, Daphne’s sharp edges have cut deep with fes­ti­val au­di­ences. At South By South­west it was met with rave re­views, while Ed­in­burgh gave Beecham a Best Per­for­mance Award. “Ev­ery­body has parts of them­selves which are like­able and un­like­able,” she sug­gests. “Why does a char­ac­ter have to be like an an­gel?”

Given she has played her twice al­ready, can Daphne’s story con­tinue? “I have no idea where she’d be in ten years’ time,” says Beecham. “She is Daphne. She is so un­pre­dictable.” But even if she is fin­ished with Daphne for now, you get the sense Daphne isn’t fin­ished with her.

Top: Emily Beecham as Daphne. Mid­dle: With mar­ried boss Joe (Tom Vaughan-lawlor).

Here: Di­rec­tor Peter Mackie Burns.

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