I have rarely been as troubled by a film as I was, on two separate viewings, by Pin Cushion. A study of the systematic dismantling of the cosy lives of two women, a misfit mother and her teenage daughter, by the bullies that target them, the film was always going to be tough viewing. But there’s a steely savagery in the final act that is genuinely unsettling; a scalding anger in the writing that is as unnerving as it is unfeigned. The film is like a cross between a crocheted bunny and a nail bomb.
And yet, as uncomfortable as I found it, there’s no question that director Deborah Haywood (this is her debut feature) is a British film-maker with a distinctive voice and considerable talent. There is something of early Yorgos Lanthimos in the slightly mannered performances, pitched a step or two sideways from reality. But under the colour-saturated chintz and cutie-pie animal memorabilia is a sensibility as unforgiving of human failures as Michael Haneke’s. Haywood uses her camera to gouge open character flaws and let them bleed. It’s not exactly fun, but then it isn’t meant to be.