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December 10, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


Electricity describes itself as a modern day Alice in Wonderland using spectacular visuals and a strong female lead to tell a touching story of family, pain and love. I instantly fell in love with the main character, Lily (Agyness Deyn), who suffers from epilepsy; she goes through her life having fits at random, the drugs she takes don’t seem to alleviate her symptoms but she takes it in her stride: “Thrash, get up, get on with it. That’s what I say.” Visually stunning and unique, the film draws us close into Lily’s world as she searches for her long lost brother without losing herself in Wonderland along the way.

The filmmakers have worked with the Wellcome Trust and The Epilepsy Society to portray the condition as honestly as possible, without being dry or didactic and focus on the story of a person who just happens to have epilepsy. Lily’s symptoms result in visual hallucinations, though before I saw this film I was unaware that some people can also have auditory or olfactory hallucinations but never more than one type.

These hallucinations occur just before she suffers a fit. Their vivid nature revolves and becomes a part of Lily’s artistic background; her room is covered in pictures and messages she’s left to herself in case she returns with no memory of who she is. Her art acts as a cocoon from her estranged family, but she’s pulled back in when her mother dies and she inherits the family home through the rules of intestacy which leads her to search for her missing brother Mikey so he can take his share.

She is not joined by her other brother Barry (Paul Anderson), who promptly sells the house, shares out the money and goes on a trip to Las Vegas to maximize his inheritance. She is however guided by the only paternal figure she has – Al (Tom Georgeson) an arcade owner, Lily’s boss and I suppose a cowboy aficionado because he’s always dressed in boots and a Stetson.

I wish the film had delved more into Al as I was curious to learn who he is but alas maybe he is more of a guardian angel or even a Cheshire cat. The Alice in Wonderland metaphor works well when Lily looks for her brother Mikey (a white rabbit?) in the monolithic London where she is overwhelmed by the city.

London is a character all of its own and provides new stimuli to torment Lily, the tube map shifts and winds its way on the walls and the din of traffic assails her. Desperate to find Mikey, she enlists a private detective firm and scours the homeless shelters looking for him. She runs across a helpful homeless girl, Rachel, and invites her into her hotel room as a reward for helping her out, but she awakes to find her stuff and Rachel gone – an unsurprising development to suspicious Londoners but to the sweet and optimistic Lily it’s a real blow. Her spirits are lifted when she is rescued and befriends Mel (Lenora Critchlow, Being Human) during a seizure on the underground.

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Lily’s dogged search for the brother she wishes she hadn’t been separated from is sweet, sincere and fraught with peril. The film begins with her estrangement from her mother which affected her relationship with Mikey and Barry until she learns that locating Mikey is just the first step of salvaging any relationship she could have with her siblings.

Her estrangement stems from her epilepsy but she doesn’t let it rule her life though she’s always aware it keeps her back from being herself. She is adamant she won’t take stronger drugs and begs for a repeat prescription of the kind that won’t affect her behavior and concentration. It’s Lily’s determination that makes her an attractive character and the point-of-view shots during her epilepsy are fascinating and frightening at the same time. This is a wonderful character-driven film which is warm and heart-breaking all at once.

Electricity is out in UK cinemas on December 12th

Sunny Ramgolam