Review by Camden Ferrell
The world of movies can be a great escape from the troubles of real life, or it can be a stressful reminder of how anxiety-ridden and embarrassing life can be. The feature directorial debut of Michelle Savill is clearly the latter. Millie Lies Low is a brand new cringe-inducing comedy that had its premiere in 2021 before playing at other festivals such as the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. Even though it could have done more to amp up its stakes and stressfulness, this movie is still a social nightmare of a movie that is carried by a confidently unconfident lead performance from Ana Scotney.
Millie is a grad student from New Zealand who has landed a prestigious internship in NYC. On the plan to the U.S., she has a panic attack and gets off the plane. Unable to get a flight back, she is stuck back at home while the people in her life think she is off to bigger and better things. Unable to own up to the embarrassment and shame of what happened, she hides in plain sight, using social media to try and convince the world she is living and thriving in the Big Apple. This is a simple premise with the possibility of social humiliation lurking at every corner which allows the audience to feel on edge for most of it.
Written by Savill and Eli Kent, the script mostly succeeds in crafting awkward scenarios. While its dialogue is solid, it doesn’t stand out in any way. It’s a simple story, but the writing makes the most of it, finding new situations and lies that Millie must navigate through albeit not always successfully. Underneath the surface of social anxiety, the movie does have a genuine message about mental health and the effect it has on many aspects of one’s life. It isn’t addressed in the most natural or subtle way, but it was interesting to see the more serious side of the film’s premise explored.
Millie is played by the talented Ana Scotney whose prior film roles are rather limited. Despite this, she carries the movie excellently. As far as I’m concerned, this movie is mostly a one-woman show, and Scotney handles it like a veteran. She has a great way of bringing the audience into her shoes as she encounters every hardship on her quest to lie about her NYC life. It’s hard to watch at moments due to how embarrassing and awkward some moments are, but she plays these moments very well. She knows when to play up the lighter side of the film, and she knows when to remain grounded.
While there’s a lot to admire about a film of this caliber, it’s far from perfect. Despite a relatively short length, the movie can feel a bit too slow on occasion. There are some great moments throughout the movie that just don’t have the strongest connecting threads. These shortcomings can sometimes undermine the great social tension and cringe that had been built up by those aforementioned moments.
Millie Lies Low is a great showcase for Scotney as a lead actor, and it shows massive potential for the directorial career of Savill. Not great, but definitely cringe-inducing, this is a movie that should be watched with discretion for those with social anxiety. It might not be continuously engaging, but it is a rather visceral experience.
Millie Lies Low is in theaters June 30.