Following her mother's suicide, N has been in and out of care most of her life, from foster care, through 'children looked after' services to mental health inpatient and outpatient services. Resolutely determined to remain an outpatient at a mental health day centre, her day-to-day existence is challenged by a new patient, Poppy Shakespeare... whilst all other outpatients are hell-bent on avoiding discharge, Poppy wants nothing else. Skirting the line between stark realism and the heightened, farcical world of, say, Lindsay Anderson, Ross and Williams' film is a roller-coaster ride through a dystopian mental health care system in 21st century Britain. By not being explicit about the reasons for Poppy's apparently enforced attendance at the day centre, the cause and effect of mental illness diagnosis is blurred. By heightening the depiction of the care givers and mental health professionals to exaggerated, satirical degrees, the cycle of discharge-collapse-readmission-rehabilitation is distorted to nightmarish proportions. Naomie Harris is great in the title role, charting the slow, distressing decline of someone determined to fight the system, but at the heart of Poppy Shakespeare lies an astonishing performance by Anna Maxwell Martin as N - she doesn't so much play her as 'be' her, creating a character so utterly believable and compelling that the viewer is both repelled and mesmerized in equal measure as we watch N deftly circumnavigate the system, always to her own advantage, always ensuring she remains within it. Kudos and applause for all involved.
N has been a day patient at north London's Dorothy Fish day hospital for 13 years - her ambition is never to leave. Then she meets glamourous new patient Poppy Shakespeare, an ad agency receptionist convinced she's not mad.
January 12, 2021