Pin Cushion (2018) DVD Review: A Dark Coming-of-Age Tale

Written and directed by Deborah Haywood, Pin Cushion (2018) stars Joanna Scanlan and Lily Newmark as a quirky mother and daughter that relocate hoping for a fresh start. It turns dark quick but remains captivating and moving throughout. Its 82-minute runtime is enough to tell this dark, sad, twisted coming-of-age story set somewhere in England. 

Buy Pin Cushion (2018) DVD

Lyn and her daughter Iona are new in town and hope to find happiness in their new surroundings. Both are eccentric, but Lyn stands out even more as she was born with a hunchback and one foot shorter than the other. Iona is socially awkward from being sheltered by Lyn for so long. Due to their unique personalities and fascination with cats, the pair are extremely close, not only sharing thoughts openly but also sharing a bed at the end of their days spent playing puzzles, practicing barn dancing, and baking. As Iona gets more oriented to her new surroundings and school, she meets a local lad, Daz, and daydreams of being part of the mean-girl clique. Iona begins to sneak off to meet Daz, telling Lyn she’s off to study with the mean girls, who she portrays as sweet kids who look after her and love Lyn’s pastries.

Iona’s daydreams and fantasies become all too real as she’s mockingly invited to be part of the clique. She immediately begins to take on their nasty persona and does anything to stay in the group. Tragic things follow as she snubs Daz after he’s dubbed an “insignificant” and continues to do dumb things to keep in her frenemies’ good graces. One night while Lyn’s out with a non-existent date, Iona throws a small party at her house that turns out disastrous as she gets drunk and tricked into stripping nude as part of a twisted game that finds her the sole loser. The next day Iona finds that her “friends” have sent out to the entire school risque photos of her taken while drunk. Iona finds she is now shunned not only by her nasty-chick clique, who delight in other people’s unhappiness, but by the school at large. 

Meanwhile, Lyn, left with more alone time now that Iona is off with friends, desperately tries to make pals of her own. Unfortunately, she ends up experiencing her own form of bullying from a nasty neighbor who borrows her ladder(s) and refuses to give it back simply to deprive her of something she needs. This bitch of a neighbor even thwarts Lyn’s attempts to join meetings at the local community center. 

The odd mother/daughter duo deal with their strife in their own ways and continue to lie to each other about their popularity. Lyn becomes convinced there is an imaginary white cat that will come to comfort her while Iona turns to booze as she searches for someone to befriend her. There is one of the mean girl crew that has some heart and begins to get closer to Iona and will eventually be her saving grace. The peculiar pair’s trials come to a head one night as the mean girls gang up on Iona and put her in the hospital for burns suffered at their horrible hands. Lyn comes to Iona’s aid before dealing out a sad retribution that will haunt two of the mean girls for the rest of their days. 

Haywood has written and directed Pin Cushion well, capturing a mother’s deepest fear as we watch Iona spin further away from herself and her mother, who will always love and protect her. The movie strikes a chord in its presentation of the dark realities of being not only school-age kids in modern times but in how it feels being the “strange” outsider in a new place. There are also a few comic moments that brighten Pin Cushion‘s landscape for a bit, adding to its watchability. Haywood’s stylish dream scenes are art-like and enhance the ladies’ flights of fancy. Scanlan and Newmark are outstanding as the odd couple lost and surrounded in a world populated by mostly terrible people. They along with the rest of the cast help Pin Cushion stand out as a twisted coming-of-age story that tugs at your heartstrings and gets one thinking a bit deeper of the world around them.   

Pin Cushion is a poignant dark drama and reminder of how screwed up this world can be for everyone; not only in a media-connected modern way but in the age-old ways that societies in-crowds can cast out those deemed insignificant. The movie also points out that sadly, just because we become adults, doesn’t mean the bullying stops. Thankfully, Pin Cushion finishes on a hopeful note after pulling us and Iona through an all-too-current vision of hell. 

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Joe Garcia III

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