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Lady Macbeth (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 89 minutes


Maybe I missed it, but I never knew when or where this story took place, so I’m going to tell you. It’s set in England in 1865. That might clear things up for you as you watch it.

A 17 year old teenager, Katherine (Florence Pugh), is sold along with some real estate to 70-year-old Boris (Christopher Fairbank) as a wife for Boris’s 40 year old son, Alexander (Paul Hilton). The movie starts out on their wedding day, and it’s dour, to say the least. Alexander is a hateful creep, and that makes him a chip off the old block.

What follows is a weird coming of age story for Katherine as she is entrapped in an old house by the two old men and told to “do her duty as a wife” and stay inside. Her only company is a servant, Anna (Naomie Ackie), who plays a pivotal role in what follows.

When both disagreeable men leave the estate for a few weeks, Katherine takes advantage of new found freedom and quickly becomes involved with a wild worker, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a 22 year old who steals Katherine’s youthful affection.

Things go from bad to worse, as the name of the film implies might happen. This could even be considered as a unique film noir, because it has most of the characteristics.

The film is directed by William Oldroyd from a script by Alice Birch and is based on an 1865 Russian novel, “Lady Macbeth of the Misensk” by Nikolai Leskov.

Dealing with themes like the subordination of women, life in the outskirts of society, and illicit sex, it was published by Dostoyevsky and adapted into a Russian opera by Shostakovich in the ‘30s. It was immediately banned by Stalin for being “too subversive.”

I haven’t read the novella and certainly haven’t seen the opera, but the movie is well done with some fine twists.