- Actors: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank
- Director: William Oldroyd
- Disc Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
- Subtitles: Spanish
- Region: Region 1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: R
- Studio: LIONSGATE
- DVD Release Date: October 17, 2017
- Run Time: 90 minutes
Having no previous knowledge of the source material (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) that served as inspiration for the film, Lady Macbeth provides a protagonist whose compulsive need for control and power above all else very gradually turns her into an anti-hero. The end result isn’t what makes the film interesting, but instead it is the process the narrative takes to change our opinion about the central character, especially since her ultimate goal is to keep things the way that they are. It isn’t an exciting film, but somehow manages to remain gripping even when it is mundane, thanks in part to taut direction by William Oldroyd and an electric breakout performance by Florence Pugh.
We join Katherine (Pugh) in on her wedding day in a rural England estate, 1865. This isn’t a marriage made of love, however, and Katherine is treated with disdain by both her husband, Alexander (Paul Hilton) and his father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank). While this dynamic is so needlessly cruel, Katherine’s gravitation towards another form of animalistic man is somewhat baffling. This is the biggest problem with the sparseness of the screenplay by Alice Birch. While it provides a great deal of opportunities for Oldroyd to allow the camera to be the storyteller, the lack of dialogue gives us little insight to the motivations of nearly any character on screen.
Although Alexander and Boris expect specific behavior from Katherine, they also spend a great deal of time away from the estate, which she mostly spends sleeping until the discovery of Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). While exploring the estate in her boredom, Katherine happens upon Sebastian and a group of other workers in the process of assaulting and demeaning the house maid (Naomi Ackie). Rather than being disturbed by this, Katherine is somehow drawn into an affair with Sebastian in her husband’s absence. After an intended rape turns into consensual sex, Katherine finds another reason to spend all day in bed.
The world of Lady Macbeth may be limited to the single estate in rural England, but it feels lived in and real. The film itself is single-minded in its premise, and carries it out with precision. I’m just not sure it was enough, however expertly it was accomplished. Impressed as I was with the filmmaking, I was letdown by the lack of depth in character development, even if that was done intentionally in order to better highlight the aforementioned filmmaking. Even if the film as a whole didn’t completely win me over, the images are stuck with me, along with the discovery of an impressive new talent in Pugh.
The DVD release of Lady Macbeth comes with a couple of special features, including a behind-the-scenes featurette and a photo gallery from the production.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Special Features: 3/10