Lapwing review – intriguing drama of 16th-century answer to the hostile environment

An intriguing debut feature set on the Lincolnshire coast depicts a Romani family hoodwinked and menaced by a vengeful salt farmer

Screenwriter Laura Turner and director Philip Stevens are making their feature-film debuts with this intriguing, slightly stylised and quasi-theatrical piece: stark, oppressive, menacing, a historical drama with a slice of horror. It is set in 16th-century England on the remote Lincolnshire coast, a time when the Egyptian Act of 1554 effectively criminalised Romani and Gypsy people and those who harboured them.

Stevens resourcefully uses the blank canvases of wild, empty coastline and forest to avoid the need for much specific period detail. David (played by Emmett J Scanlan from TV’s Peaky Blinders) is the aggressive bully who leads a small community of people farming salt from the marshes; he has made a deal with a Romani called Arif (Javed Khan) to get a boat to take him and his family away from England, taking half the payment up front and resentfully allowing Arif and the other Romani to camp nearby until the promised boat arrives. But David is getting ready to cheat the Romani and is all too ready to cheat his fellow farmers, too.

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