‘Millie Lies Low’ begins with our main character Millie (Ana Scotney) having a panic attack, and then spends the next 100-minutes trying to give the viewer one, as you watch Millie make one infuriatingly terrible life choice after another. This film should come with a content warning for anxiety.
Millie is an architecture student, who has won a prestigious scholarship to study in New York whilst also interning at a renowned firm. Her success is big news in Wellington, where her face adorns billboards encouraging people to study at her school. Moments before her flight takes off she has a panic attack and has to leave the plane.
Whilst trying to hustle enough cash for another plane ticket, instead of facing up to her situation, she posts fake pics on her instagram account to pretend that she is in NYC and living her best life. Millie goes to ever increasing lengths to maintain the ruse, all whilst dodging about Wellington, trying to avoid being spotted by her family and friends.
Directed and co-written by Michelle Savill, ‘Millie Lies Low’ is the latest film from New Zealand that taps into the comedy and tragedy of everyday life. “Sad but also quite funny” could be the national genre of New Zealand seeing how they do it so well.
Savill’s script, co-written with Eli Kent walks a delicate line with the realism of the subject matter and some of the heightened slapstick situations Millie finds herself in. Watching someone so chaotic, so dramatic, and so self-destructive can be hilarious, but it can also be exhausting. I found some of the decisions Millie makes to be profoundly infuriating.
Where the film really shines is in the slow reveals and carefully layered details that might just explain why Millie is behaving this way, and also why she might have had the panic attack in the first place. There’s also an insightful comment on the online fictions we are all guilty of creating. Even in her ridiculously low situation, when the likes start coming in for her fake posts, she beams with delight.
Slightly more downbeat than I was expecting, but anchored by a terrific and committed performance from Ana Scotney, ‘Millie Lies Low’ is well worth checking out. After making its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the film is being released digitally from August 22nd.