Lady Macbeth Movie Review
Florence Pugh is venomous in Lady Macbeth, a deliciously dark period thriller about a woman who knows what she wants and will do whatever she needs to obtain it. For 19th century rural England, she should be commended for being so assertive. So what if she murders a child or two?
Writer Alice Birch and director William Oldroyd have constructed a taught drama that takes the fiercely independent female protagonist you’d typically find in a Jane Austen novel and gives her something more than talking to do. Based on the 1865 novella “Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk,” Lady Macbeth quickly draws you thanks to Pugh’s alluring performance as Katherine and her character’s immediate attack upon the world in which she resides. Oldroyd and Birch waste little time in unleashing Pugh to do her time—there’s no slow boil here.
Well written and smartly directed, the movie nonetheless lives and breathes with Pugh, who commands every scene she’s in. Where the film falls just slightly short is with its supporting characters, who aren’t developed enough to be affecting. Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) is Katherine’s lover and catalyst for many of the things that occur, but as the story progresses and his role becomes increasingly important, his character remains surface-level. The lack of complexity surrounding his character makes Katherine’s evolving relationship with him less interesting and powerful.
Lady Macbeth also falls short of its potential when Golda Rosheuvel finally appears; what could have been a compelling and explosive dynamic between the two women instead fizzles before it can even really get started.
Nonetheless, Lady Macbeth is an intriguing, captivating and entertaining drama-thriller; while it is naturally restrained by its period setting, the filmmakers properly push boundaries and deliver a sexy, murderous jaunt that deserves more recognition than it’s received.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.