Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie, Paul Hilton, Christopher Fairbank
Director: William Oldroyd
Based on a Russian novel, this film is set in rural Britain during the Victorian Era, where Katherine (Pugh) is sent to be married to a much older man (Hilton). Her life is repressive even for this time, and her husband and father in law (Fairbank) are cruel and cold men. When her keepers happen to both be away, she starts to find her freedom with a young employee Sebastian (Jarvis), but her freedom soon takes a dark turn.
This film feels really dark. Katharine is expected to submit her her husband and father in law, and they’re both really repulsive and not gentlemen. She’s not allowed to leave the house, and is expected to sit still and remain awake, always being reprimanded for some small slight. When she starts to find her freedom, you feel like you want her to break free, but actually, she’s a cold hearted and strange person herself, willing to stop at nothing. Actually, I ended up rather liking her, in a way, because she’s not a shrinking violet. She’s a really unusual female character, and I really didn’t like almost anyone around her in this film, and I like that this film could make me feel something for a very strange and deadly woman.
Perhaps the real victim is Anne (Ackie), a woman who is beset on all sides, a servant who is threatened by the male staff, degraded by the household and finds no warmth in her mistress at all, and who loses her voice through the horror of the events at the house. She’s a quiet, desperate presence, and adds an emotional element and fear to this film that would otherwise be lacking.
This film is beautifully shot, the fields feel lush in contrast to the shabby and dark interiors, and there is so much calculated viscousness and anger in this film. It’s a highly original film and I really enjoyed it, but it feels very dark.
See It If: you like your historical women with a little bite. A fascinating and dark tale.