Lea and June are very much in love. Their daughter is a bubbly little toddler named Lyle, and they’ve recently discovered that Lea is expecting a second child. With their little family growing and June’s rap career on the rise, they move into what seems to be the apartment of their dreams.
Sure, the neighbour lady is a little wacky, but there’s a hot model living next door and life seems perfect. However, when tragedy strikes, Lea begins to suspect that something sinister is lurking in the shadows of her grief and despair.
Lyle is the title of Eyes Wide Shut actor-turned-director Stewart Thorndike’s first feature-length film, a psychological thriller that is so deeply unsettling it took me four cookies and a massive bowl of ice cream to recover after viewing. Thorndike masterfully draws her audience in with gorgeous cinematography and a natural banter between her two leading women; as Lea’s world starts to unravel, there is a real sense of loss and trepidation.
“Lea’s a caring mother and loves her girlfriend, but it’s as though she’s trained herself not to ask too many questions,” Thorndike says. “And that becomes her downfall.”
Gaby Hoffman (of Girls and Transparent fame) is note-perfect as expectant mother Lea. Those dark eyebrows frame a face that somehow makes space for hope, fear and cold rage all at the same time. Watching these emotions chase each other across her beautiful visage is mesmerizing.
“Gabby is just a phenomenal actress,” Thorndike says. “The way that we shot this film meant that I needed to have a genius because we have to move so fast.”
Lyle was made on a truly shoestring budget, something belied by the gorgeous shots and riveting performances. It actually began as a web series, but Thorndike quickly realized this creepy tale belonged on the big screen. Quite a feat for an idea that began as a revenge fantasy.
“My ex-girlfriend Ingrid (Jungermann) actually plays June,” she says. “When we were together I had wanted to have a kid and she didn’t. We had this realization that we wanted different things and I got mad.
“So I was in the shower thinking she’s bad, that she’s a bad person. And of course she’s not, but from that I wrote down a sketch for the plot. It’s a sort of lesbian Rosemary’s Baby, with two women dealing with thoughts and circumstances that are usually reserved for hetero, iconic sort of characters.”
Making a film under any circumstances is always a challenge, but Thorndike has managed to create a studio-quality movie with very little money and plenty of favours.
“So many people are always waiting for the money to come in, or the right actor to arrive,” she says. “My message is to do anything you can to feel empowered to just make your movie. You just do it.”