29 Nov 23
Thomasin Mckenzie, Anne Hathaway, Shea Whigham, Owen Teague, Jefferson White, Marin Ireland
What to do when you've wowed audiences – and critics – with your debut feature, Lady Macbeth, made a star out of your leading lady, Florence Pugh, and torn up the rule book on period dramas in the process? For theatre turned film director William Oldroyd, the answer is simple: go darker, go deeper and leap across the pond to 1960s Boston.
Adapted from Ottessa Moshfegh's gripping prize-winning 2015 novel, Eileen positions a sexually frustrated but deeply reserved prison worker as prime bait for a wildly gregarious femme fatale with revenge on her mind.
Rising star Thomasin McKenzie (Last Night In Soho, The Power Of The Dog) plays Eileen, who's stuck by day in her dead-end admin job and by night living with her all-but-immobile alcoholic dad (Shea Whigham).
Out of the blue comes worldly glamour-puss counsellor Rebecca (Anne Hathaway), to shake her world and potentially break her out of the daily grind. Within a matter of days, Eileen is coming out of her shell, but what is this sassy new psychologist really after – and why does she take such a shine to the sweet and clearly inexperienced Eileen?
Hathaway is as electric as you would expect, a tour de force on screen, as the mysteriously fearless Rebecca. It's no coincidence she shares her name with the iconic Alfred Hitchcock-directed Daphne du Maurier film noir of the same name – both are cut from the same cloth.
But McKenzie holds her own with a superbly understated performance that evinces a cocktail of suppressed desire, hope and hurt. The film is effectively a two-hander, and the New Zealander gives her American co-star a serious run for her money. Together on screen, they are riveting.
They are aided and abetted by an exceptional supporting cast on screen and crew off screen. Among them are Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Jefferson White (Yellowstone) and Marin Ireland (The Irishman) who co-star.
Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry provides a stunning score and cinematographer Ari Wegner (The Wonder, The Power Of The Dog) captures the mood perfectly.
It's no surprise this film had its world premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival earlier this year – nor that its twists and turns are so tricky to predict. It's a rollercoaster ride of a thriller that happily wears its influences on its sleeve to maximum impact.
Oldroyd is essentially taking the central figure of Lady Macbeth from his debut and turning her into a far more complex character – perhaps two sides of the same character – with chilling effect.
The illusionary aspects of the film leave many questions unanswered and even tease the potential for a follow-up, should its author (or director) choose to do so.
It's a thrilling proposition to ponder, as the dramatic finale throws up a burning question: what next for these femme fatales in the wake of their wicked deeds? Surely, there must be more to come? Let's hope so. Ed Gibb
Promising Young Woman2020
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