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Searching for Lily

average rating is 3 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Mar 8, 2023

Film Reviews
Searching for Lily
Directed by:
Alexander Williams
Written by:
Alexander Williams
Maisie Preston, Nia Trussler Jones, Michelle Collins

On paper, ‘Searching for Lily’ should work as an intimate character study of a fraught with troubles and with the whole world set against her. In reality, it ends up rather shallow, with too much left unsaid by a screenplay which lacks any drive or vigour, and crucially any narrative thrust.


Excellently played by Maisie Preston, we’re first introduced to Lily as she lays flat on a bed, ‘servicing’ her client. The vulnerable, unsatisfied gaze in her eyes makes it obvious that she doesn’t enjoy her business. She’s only recently turned eighteen and should be in college, living her life, but instead she’s saddled with a crippling, and looming, debt, and a weak mother in need of her care. In the position she’s in, it’s easy to empathise with Lily for turning to sex to make money, after all it pays more than her retail job, and sees cash paid in hand.


Still, the debts mount up, as does the alcohol, and Lily’s sense of despair only heightens as she continues to dehumanise herself and the relationship between her and her mother (Nia Trussler Jones) deteriorates. Again, Lily’s frustrations are understandable - she’s sacrificing both her future and her dignity in order to care for her mother, all to receive limited gratification. Her clients, both old and young, appear genial enough, yet all carry a sinister edge as they take advantage of Lily’s troubles in using her body. There’s solace for Lily in her budding friendship with the older, more experienced sex worker, Queenie (Michelle Collins), who evidently cares for Lily, and doesn’t want to see her follow a similar path to the one which she’s taken.


Whilst she’s an interesting case study, it never really feels as though Lily is a real woman or anything at all more than a character in a film. The events which befall her throughout the film just happen - there’s no set up or narrative drive, they just occur and we are forced to accept that as she responds to a fresh set of problems. This means that when, for example, Lily’s mum discovers how Lily has been spending her time, it is unceremoniously thrust upon us, detracting from the drama of the situation as writer-director Alexander Williams fails to imbue the scene with tension of any sort.


This is indicative of a screenplay which doesn’t hold a candle to Williams’ direction, which is competent, and occasionally great. The writing on the other hand, in particular the dialogue, feels forced for large parts, with characters presented too broadly, and wedged into one-dimensional roles that suite Lily’s perception of them. She believes that her mother is dragging her down, so we don’t see another side to her; she sees Queenie as a mentor figure, so that’s how she’s portrayed; her clients are merely transactional, so they are only vehicles in the plot to enhance her frustration. Though in some respects, and in greater films, this works to ensure a fully fleshed out, and intimate portrayal of a central character, in ‘Searching for Lily’, it is instead a failed, missed opportunity.


The trouble with ‘Searching for Lily’ is that in its attempts to probe deeper into its central characters it instead ends up going nowhere inventive with its story, and therefore, the character isn’t allowed to develop naturally. The film never succeeds in its search for Lily, and the result is a sometimes well-crafted, and definitely well-acted, film, but one which is massively underwhelming.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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