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Film Reviews Review: Lady Macbeth is a harsh story lacking the benefit of suspense

Florence Pugh in Lady Macbeth.

D Films

2.5 out of 4 stars

Title
Lady Macbeth
Written by
Alice Birch
Directed by
William Oldroyd
Starring
Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

This adaptation of the 19th-century Russian novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, may be the most beautiful film you ever saw.

The action has been moved to a spartan country estate in northern England and each shot is as perfectly composed as a Dutch still life.

In his first feature, theatre director William Oldroyd has mastered the visual, no small thanks to cinematographer Ari Wegner. What is rocky here is pacing and tone as this harsh story of a lady (Florence Pugh) trapped in a loveless marriage who turns to adultery and murder lurches from one theatrical gesture to another without much benefit of suspense.

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The brazenness of her actions and opacity of her emotions suggest a tragic heroine in the grand tradition – the novel is the basis for the Shostakovich opera of the same title – but the film lacks the propulsive drive to make her fate moving.

The casting is biracial with Cosmo Jarvis playing her lover, a groom on the estate, and Naomi Ackie as her horrified maid – an interesting intervention that adds welcome complexity.

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