"Pugh’s performance and the unexpected mix of drama, thriller and comedic moments make it a pleasure to watch"
You would be forgiven for thinking Lady Macbeth had something to do with the villainous and manipulative wife of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, but this movie actually has no connection at all, although the name will give some viewers some foreshadowing about the lead character.
Lady Macbeth is actually based on Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, a novel written by Russian author Nikolai Leskov in 1865. The Russian setting has been swapped for the English countryside, where teenage bride Katherine (Florence Pugh) lives with her middle-aged husband Alexander (Paul Hilton).
She hates her new life, she doesn’t pretend to be a good wife and he doesn’t seem to be enjoying her company much either. Luckily for her, Alexander and his father Boris (Christopher Fairbank), who live in the house and told Katherine how to live, go away on business for an extended period of time.
During this time, she meets farm hand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) and they embark on a passionate affair and she is completely besotted with him and wants them to have a real relationship. Her love for Sebastian drives her to take murderous actions once her husband and father-in-law return home and ruin her idyllic antics.
Lady Macbeth begins very slow and it is quiet and minimalist, but that is how the house was at the time, considering they all hated each other. Luckily, the pace picks up, the plot becomes apparent and much more exciting when she begins her torrid love affair, which is frowned upon by her maid Anna (Naomi Ackie). Everything seems glorious for a brief moment and you can’t help wondering when it will all come crashing down, which it does in a far more spectacular fashion than predicted.
It seemed quite apparent that the film would take a murderous and dark tone but it goes much further than expected and is rather shocking. Despite her new sociopathic path, you understand Katherine’s actions and motives and although what she has done is despicable, you don’t actually hate her. She doesn’t become this archetypical villain; she is simply a severely flawed and twisted human being.
This is all down to rising star Pugh, who puts in a sensational performance. She can be quiet and restrained one moment, bursting with personality, mischief and laughter in the next, and murderous and cold in another. Her performance is very subtle as well because what she thinks is mostly said via her facial expressions than her minimal dialogue and her onscreen presence was captivating, especially during long takes on her face. It’s no surprise she was named Breakthrough of the Year by The Evening Standard.
The film itself is rather slow and isn’t really original but Pugh’s performance and the unexpected mix of drama, thriller and comedic moments make it a pleasure to watch.