'Eileen' Review: Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie Star in Unexpected Romantic Suspense | Sundance 2023

William Oldroyd's first film since 2016's Lady Macbeth is a riveting tale that never quite turns out to be what you expect it to be.

Irene, William Oldroyd's first film since 2016's Lady Macbeth made Florence Pugh a star, is defined more by what it isn't than what it is . Like his previous films, "Erin" is an exercise in restraint, as the story is based on the book of the same name by Otaisa Moshfege, from a screenplay by Moshfege and Luke Goebel, With twists and turns, it always surprises the audience. What begins as an almost Carrollian forbidden love story in the 1960s suddenly turns to something more unpredictable. Erin knows where you think it's going and decides to deviate from those assumptions.

Thomasin McKenzie as Eileen, who works in a 1960s Massachusetts prison and lives with her alcoholic ex-cop father (Shea Whigham) Find ways to insult her in the sharpest way possible. Erin is also very lonely because the first time we meet her, she is watching a young couple hanging out in a car. Not only does she want someone who understands her, she deeply wants the physical aspect that comes with it. Her life becomes mundane: going to prison to work, bringing dad home a bottle of wine, Come home, be reprimanded by her dad, and repeat the same mistakes the next day.

But Erin may have found what she was looking for in Dr. Rebecca St. John (Anne Hathaway), a prison psychologist who thinks differently from the rest of the prison, And being friends with Erin makes her open up more than she seems docile. In one beautifully constructed scene, Irene and Dr. St. John are bathed in red neon lights, as they watch in gorgeous cinematography by Ari Wegner ("Miracle," "The Power of Dogs"). Learn more about each other and decide to dance with each other. While they're enjoying each other's company, a guy tries to chime in, which leads to the good doctor knocking the guy's ass because she's not willing to put up with such crap. Instead of telling us directly, Oldroyd tells us a lot about the doctor, a mysterious woman who can clearly take care of herself while going after what she wants.

Like Lady Macbeth, Irene is concerned with, and struggles with, the limitations placed on women in the past, as Irene and Dr. St. John allow They themselves embrace their happiness despite the world around them. We also hear a story of intergenerational trauma, whether it's Erin being constantly insulted by her father, or a young prisoner with something to hide. However, that's not what Erin meant -- well, at least not at all. Moshfegh's story takes a sudden right turn when it's least expected, opening the story and expanding on what really happened in a fascinating way. However, this shift makes perfect sense in the context, and while it might surprise viewers, the choice makes perfect sense once the dust settles.

MacKenzie plays the timid Erin in a low-key, meek way, but since we see her when no one else sees her, we know there's more to her character that shines. It's especially fun to watch MacKenzie play Hathaway's Dr. St. John, a character who dominates every room she's in and knows exactly who she is, even when the characters around her think she's an enigma. Whigham is also great, he is so bad in every scene, often insulted and generally mean that Eileen has Can bear him for so long. Although she only appears in one main scene, Marin Ireland has perhaps the most powerful moment of the entire movie, as a mother who feels trapped by choices in her family. The Irish scenes are extremely dark, but illustrate the limitations that all the main female characters feel in this universe.

But aside from this beautiful 1960s rendition and these performances, Erin's strength lies in her script. Like the script Moshfegh and Goebel wrote for last year's Causeway, Erin isn't in a rush because we're often sitting with these characters and watching them figure out their situation. For example, in a shot of Eileen's Christmas Eve visit to Dr. St. John's, the camera often takes a step back and immerses us in overcoming these women's insecurities, uncertainties, and apprehensions in the moment. While Irene is a quiet addition in every scene, a quick fantasy sequence shows the woman's racing mind, which she's probably retired from being able to follow through on.

However, Erin's conclusion may also be offensive to viewers, as the story seems It comes out when the stakes are raised and the story begins. While the narrative is relatively close to Moshfegh's original book, this ending almost feels like a straightforward choice rather than a more logical one. Yet, like the entire film, Erin continues to subvert expectations until, at the end, she decides to stop when the story may have just begun.

Erin is a fascinating little story that shifts and transforms as it develops, playing with the audience and giving them the opposite of what they expect. Erin isn't going to be everyone's crush - especially those who think they know exactly what they're up against - but Erin is an admirably defiant spirit, and 90 minutes of living in it is a joy .

Rating: B

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