Adaptation of the play by Nikolai Leskov set in the North of England. A young girl is sold into a marriage to the son of a wealthy man. The marriage isn’t going to go well if the wedding night is anything to go by, as this man has no interest in sleeping with his lovely new wife. While he’s away on business and his Father is too, Katherine strikes up an affair with one of the men who works on the Estate where she lives. This passionate affair leads to murder, and anyone who stands in the way of their love, they will surely pay the price.
I find Macbeth, the Shakespearean play to be a little long-winded and not as interesting as some of his other works. Maybe it’s the fact that I love King Lear, with all the family treachery, I don’t know, I just wouldn’t put it in my top five of his plays. However knowing the tragedy of Macbeth certainly does pay off when watching Lady Macbeth.
This is a cross between Shakespeare, Wuthering Heights, and Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Add into that the adaptations of Catherine Cooksons books and you’ve got this twisted, dark, and passionate love story.
The production is stark, with very little of a musical relief or soundtrack, and that adds to the isolation that you feel watching this. You start off the film feeling dreadfully sorry for the girl, being sold into a marriage she doesn’t want, to a man who doesn’t want her, but his Father insists on it. You’ll find out that he wants his son to have an heir more than anything and suffering this girl is the price that he is willing to pay, but his son will not bless the marriage with between the sheets action. The dark twists and turns that happen when the husband goes off on business are just the start of a journey into the depths of human depravity.
Performances here, outside of Florence Pugh as Katherine, are high and they draw you straight into the world of the, what I can only guess is, Yorkshire countryside. Florence Pugh is outstanding as the title character, going from likeable young girl to the dark mistress of terror that she becomes. It’s not like she’s a slasher, violently lashing out at everyone and anyone that crosses her path, she’s so calculating that she’ll give Hannibal Lector a run for his money. Playing her Maid is Naomi Ackie who is just brilliant as the house maid that witnesses the darkness creeping over the young girl.
While this won’t be for everyone, it’s a tense pot boiler of a film that requires you to like, hate, like the title character, it’s a tough ask. But that to me is what makes this film extraordinary, it’s not that it’s a twisted dark romance, it’s the fact that it asks of the audience to change the way you view the characters constantly. We don’t sit there for the running time and just feel that we support this girl, we sit for ten minutes and feel pity for her, then her inner demons come to the forefront and you start to fear her. That is fantastic to feel. It’s also amazing that the adaptation of the play pulls no punches, it goes straight for the darkness, and does not blink as it looks into the abyss.
Director: William Oldroyd
Writers: Nikolai Leskov (based on the novel by), Alice Birch (screenplay)
Stars: Florence Pugh, Christopher Fairbank, Cosmo Jarvis