Winner of Best Independent Film in London and Best Actress in LA, ‘Never Let Go’ is a gut-wrenching thriller which follows a single mother on holiday as she desperately searches for her missing child following an apparent abduction.
Alone in a foreign country, unsupported by the father of her child and the local authorities, she does everything she can to get her baby back.
‘Never Let Go’ turns a male-dominated genre on its head as a woman takes the lead. Lisa Brenna is not however, just a female version of Jason Bourne or Bryan Mills, she lets us into her mind and world, making it an emotional rollercoaster of a film.
She takes the audience with her on a nail biting, heart-pounding trek through any parent’s worst nightmare showing how fragile and vulnerable she is but also how powerful she becomes, such is the strength to find her child.
Angela Dixon, a great friend of mine and an actress I’ve directed in the past, lets us into her experience of playing Lisa. It’s an honour to share her piece here:
Being asked to inhabit a character like Lisa is gold-dust for an actor and I knew it was my opportunity to really use my craft. I spent hundreds of hours getting to know her, working out the complexity of her feelings, thoughts and emotions, finding her physicality and her voice. What we see on our screens looks so simple and easy yet what goes on behind the scenes is often a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears.
Along with that, add a fair amount of fear.
I was paralysed with fear both during my 5 week prep time and filming the movie. The pressure to deliver is immense when you’re the driving force of a story and everyone’s success or failure hangs on you.
There were many times when I really thought I couldn’t do it.
My jaw hurt so much with the daily accent work I had to get a brace to stop my jaw from locking. The intense physical training and action of the shoot meant I was continually in physio being fixed. But most of all the emotional strain of playing Lisa and my own self-critic that was telling me I would fail was at times debilitating.
You have to do the preparation, then let go of it all on the day and hope that the creative process takes over and you hit the right notes at the right time.
It’s nerve wracking yet life affirming.
You get a rush of adrenaline- and you are 100% present and in the moment. It’s a heady mix. There were times when I was filming where I had an overwhelming sense that, ‘Yes, this is what I was born to do’.
This film was very important to me in so many ways. The title itself is rather fitting as I have never let go of my career when most people would have given up.
It’s an over saturated industry and one that favours youth, especially when it comes to women. One of the core drivers of my character is her sheer determination, tenacity and resilience against almost impossible odds.
These are qualities frequently portrayed by male characters in movies yet rarely by women. It’s incredibly refreshing to be part of a film that shows that truthfulness, that equality of emotion and power.
Many women have spoken about feeling a strong sense of empowerment from watching NLG. Apparently, in Nigeria women were cheering in the cinemas.
I think watching another woman take control of herself and her circumstances without the intervention of a man is so rare to see on our screens that it has really hit a nerve.
The introduction of the Bechdel test [rating a film against the criteria of whether it has at least two named women in it who talk to each other about something besides a man] is a testament to the gender inequality on our screens.
However, in NLG not only is there a complex female lead but also 4 other strong, sympathetic female characters.
It definitely has a core theme of sisterhood.
Howard J Ford not only wrote this for a woman but also deliberately wrote my character as being in her 40s so that the stakes were high.
This was her first baby, the likelihood was she wouldn’t be able to have another (and a baby is irreplaceable anyway).
Howard had a lot of pressure from the industry to cast her younger and even once we made it, some male execs questioned why he had cast someone over the age of 30?
I won’t honour what else they said in writing as it’s too offensive. I’ll leave that up to your imagination. This film flies in the face of the endemic sexism and ageism in the business.
The real story of ‘Never Let Go’ is not the surface plot line of a mother fighting for her baby’s life. It is a woman’s development from self-hatred to self-love, from debilitating self-guilt to self-forgiveness and ultimately to redemption.
I went through much of that process as I made the film.
Years of rejection can take its’ toll on you and make you doubt your abilities.
This film has re-affirmed my worth as an actor and as a woman. I’m proud that I am heading up one of the few truly female driven films out there.
My hope is that audiences connect with the story and experience running in Lisa’s shoes. I look forward to many more films showing women as interesting, complex, independent people of worth.
I hope that if we support films like this, many more will be written for us.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Following a sell-out independent cinema release, ‘Never Let Go’ is being distributed by Icon films and is out on DVD and VOD from 10th October.
You can buy it at iTunes, Amazon, HMV, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and selected independent retailers.
NEVER LET GO TRAILER DVD AND DOWNLOAD DETAILS