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