Lady Macbeth (2016)

Rated 15
Spoiler Free

With no idea what to expect from Lady Macbeth I ploughed into it certain the good reviews, Florence Pugh and askew perspective would see me through.

In 19th Century England (somewhere in the Godless north it seems), Pugh’s Katherine is arranged married into a loveless union of utter dispassion. That part, I thought, was a good start for a story. Her older, ugly husband Alexander and his equally repulsive father Boris (arf) are convincingly reprehensible representatives of the worst the men bring to the world. Unfortunately, that’s where Lady Macbeth peaked.

IMDb calls Lady Macbeth a romance. I’d call it a boring, tediously aimless showcase of why Pugh is better than films like this. It's also bent in its meaning. The first sexual encounter between Pugh’s Katherine and her "lover", Cosmo Jarvis’ Sebastian, is forceful, almost rape fantasy grim. I knew a kid called Cosmo and he was fucking odd so full disclosure, I have my prejudices. I don’t think he was this rapey, but we were eleven so you never know, maybe he just didn’t fancy me.

While gorgeous to look at as a film, Director William Oldroyd juxtaposes being made to look painfully pretty then having awful, awful sex as a way of escape, sets a disconcerting tone. Life is so boring that sex is empowering, somehow. There's something in this but I didn’t buy into it. Even though the “love” becomes less egregious, there is not a pube of humour, not even a crotchety whiff of a dress-smothered hair of amusement. Lady Macbeth has all the misery and poor decisions of Thomas Hardy, yet makes Far From the Madding Crowd look like Transformers by way of action.

It is not even remotely sexy.

You and me both, Florence.
There must be meaning hidden in the film but whatever it is it Lady Macbeth is a drab conduit for them which never hits any notes to catch you. Women are men's property and men are bastards. Whoop de fucking do, what a revelation; say it and engage me, make me feel something and side with the characters. Lady Macbeth never made me feel connected to anyone and I know men are bastards- I am both of them.

Back to the acting: Jarvis is so unconvincing it undermines Florence Pugh’s wonderful performance. I’m on record as thinking the world of Pugh as an actor and it’s easy to see why she got great roles having carried the entire 89 minutes of Lady Macbeth. The film feels longer; isn't time a weird construct*? Lady Macbeth ends abruptly, which might sound like a coup de grace given I wasn’t enjoying it, but it left me wondering why I was there. I still haven’t settled on why I was.

Bedsit it?

All time great show The Sopranos ended in a way which seemed unsatisfying but made you think. Lady Macbeth simply felt as if its story, meaning and performances were expanded beyond exhaustion, it ends because it had run its course half an hour ago.

Hardly a bugle call for feminism, there are other hashtags and buzzwords with more power than this. Lady Macbeth isn’t going to drive you towards any understanding. 4/10
*My most profound takeaway from Lady Macbeth.

Gender and sexual politics, what a fucking minefield! Got some reviews for you...


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