Lady Macbeth

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
Lady Macbeth

The period drama gets violent in this tale of a teenage girl married off to a wealthy landowner

This brilliantly feminist British indie film plunges a cold, sharp knife into the back of bonnet dramas. ‘Lady Macbeth’ is like a Jane Austen story with a dash of sex and murder and a nineteenth-century heroine who might have swallowed the works of Caitlin Moran and Gloria Steinem.

Confusingly, it’s got nothing to do with Shakespeare. The script, by playwright Alice Birch, is adapted from an 1860s Russian novel by Nikolai Leskov, ‘Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District’, and it was shot by theatre director William Oldroyd. The pair relocate the book to Victorian England where Florence Pugh (the spit of a young Kate Winslet) plays Katherine, a teenager in northern England whose father has married her off to a rich miner’s son. Humiliatingly, she is part of a two-for-one deal, thrown in with a plot of land. Worse, her husband (Paul Hilton) is a seething mess of pathetic inadequacies.

This is a pure feminist parable. We watch as her maid, Anna (Naomi Ackie), yanks Katherine’s corset ribbons agonisingly tight. And just as the patriarchy is deforming her body, so too it is twisting her soul. When her husband leaves the family pile on business, Katherine ends up in bed with a cocky servant (indie singer Cosmo Jarvis). A killing spree follows.

Newcomer Florence Pugh is like a lightning bolt, totally electric as Katherine, who’s up there with Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina in the literary heroine stakes. She has the innocent face of an angel but she soon begins to live up to her Shakespearean namesake. And like Amma Asante’s ‘Belle’ and Tom Hardy’s ‘Taboo’, ‘Lady Macbeth’ is part of a new generation of British film and TV showing us that Britain’s diversity didn’t begin with the Windrush. The stable boy and Katherine’s maid are both mixed race – which adds another layer of complexity and shows up toxic class divisions. What an extraordinary film.

By: Cath Clarke

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
15
Release date:
Friday April 28 2017
Duration:
89 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
William Oldroyd
Screenwriter:
Alice Birch
Cast:
Florence Pugh
Cosmo Jarvis
Paul Hilton

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|4
1 person listening
Tastemaker

This is a chilling and atmospheric thriller that successfully challenges viewers' initial sympathies. 

Tastemaker

A bold, wonderful film that will surprise you. Exceptionally shot and featuring one of the best perfomances I've seen this year, although not telling the "Lady Macbeth" story you would expect, this movie will leave a trace. Definitely a must see of the season.

tastemaker

Though she may be little (with a running time of 86 minutes and a budget of less than half a million pounds) this film is fierce. The eponymous Lady Macbeth is not she of Shakespeare, yet the calculating nature of both characters would suggest they are at least distant relations. Unlike pretty much any other period drama you've ever seen this film is taut, told with care and total suspense. More than worth a watch, especially for future superstar Florence Pugh's incredible lead performance.