Having enjoyed a successful premiere at the 2011 London Film Festival Frances Lea, director of Strawberry Fields, is destined for bigger things. Part of the Microwave scheme, the film marries mystery with sleepy summer visuals to evoke intrigue and curiosity.
Strawberry Fields puts, to put it in one neat analogy, a lot of strawberries in one punnet. It explores the unbreakable bond held between siblings and the heady delights of summer. The sisters, Gillian (Anna Madeley) and Emily (Christine Bottomley), are trying to cope with growing up and growing apart. Although the actresses seem to be a little old to be experiencing such dilemmas, the problem is dealt with adeptly and the strangeness inherent in both their relationship and the film is palpable.
Co-star Emun Elliott provides the sisters with a physical problem as Gillian struggles to escape the confines of her sister’s strong hold to enjoy time with him. Lust and love fill Strawberry Fields and help aid the confusion the film portrays. Gillian enters the film, seemingly normally, riding a bike. Her actions soon evoke question marks and we watch as she steals clothes and presents herself under a new persona at a strawberry picking field. Here she makes new friends that are confused to find she’s not quite who she says she is, a revelation made thanks to the arrival of her batty sister Emily.
Lea’s film soon loses its focus, veering away as it does from strawberry picking and instead settling itself in a realm of weirdness. The bond between the sisters, although forming the focus of the film, never feels fully explored and the murderous intent that grows in them both is ill explained. Emily is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her sister, but we’re never quite sure why.
Described by The Guardian as ‘a terrific British debut [… filled] with lush, summery images and an alluringly mysterious central relationship between two sisters’, Strawberry Fields both mesmerises and confuses. Redeemingly, Lea’s direction provides the film with some beautiful shots and stunning visuals of the Kent landscapes.