A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama cleverly references Shakespeare for its metaphorical title. It's actually based on Russian author Nikolai Leskov's 1895 novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. And it takes no prisoners. Insinuating and bold, the film quickly worms its way under the skin, unnerving us to the core with its shocking story, clever camerawork and razor-sharp acting.
Newcomer Florence Pugh (The Falling) stars as Katherine, who is sold with a piece of scrappy moorland to the wealthy Boris (Christopher Fairbank) and married off to his son Alexander (Paul Hilton). He prefers to look at her rather than touch her, so in her frustration she plots other ways to entertain herself. When the men leave on a trip, Katherine visits the stables and seduces the beefy new groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). And she doesn't really try to keep it a secret. Her maid (Naomi Ackie) remains quiet about what she sees, but trouble is brewing from all sides. And Katherine is fiercely determined that men aren't going to tell her what to do any more.
This is the story of a young woman who finally begins to push back against the indignities forced on her by supposedly civilised society. What Katherine does is increasingly horrifying, but it's impossible to blame her. Pugh's performance is simply dazzling, a breakout turn that reminds you of a young Judi Dench in the way she combines spirited inner strength with intelligence and raw emotion. Katherine is a sometimes scary force of nature, but Pugh grounds her humanity so vividly that it's impossible not to sympathise with her. She also develops sparky chemistry with the actors around her, all of whom are complex and fascinating. Jarvis is particularly good as the lusty stable boy whose conscience begins to get the best of him.
Continue reading: Lady Macbeth Review
It's the 19th century and a young girl named Katherine is forced to marry a man of middle-age named Alexander whom she does not love in exchange for money for her parents. She wonders if she could love this man, but his father Boris' constant abuse of her is almost too much to bear. Their sexual relationship goes nowhere, which only further incites the wrath of Boris who insults her appearance. When both father and son are called away, Katherine enters into an intense affair with the new stable boy and her character begins to change. A desire for vengeance and for happiness leads her down a very dark road that lands her her Shakespearean nickname.
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