Lady Macbeth (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William Oldroyd|
|Produced by||Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly|
|Screenplay by||Alice Birch|
|Based on||Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District
by Nikolai Leskov
|Music by||Dan Jones|
|Edited by||Nick Emerson|
|Box office||$3.9 million|
Lady Macbeth is a 2016 British drama film directed by William Oldroyd and written by Alice Birch, based on the novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov. It stars Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie and Christopher Fairbank. The plot follows a young woman who is stifled by her loveless marriage to a bitter man twice her age.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016, and was released in the UK on 28 April 2017 by Altitude Film Distribution and in the US on 14 July 2017 by Roadside Attractions. It received positive reviews and has grossed nearly $4 million worldwide.
In the year 1865 in rural England, a young woman, Katherine, is in a loveless marriage to an older man, Alexander Lester. They live at the country estate of Alexander's father, Boris. Katherine is forced to maintain a strict schedule and prevented from leaving the house. Boris scolds Katherine for not giving Alexander a son, but Alexander shows no physical interest in her.
One day both Boris and Alexander have to leave the estate for separate business matters, leaving Katherine alone with the housemaid, Anna. For the first time in memory, Katherine is free to explore the area to alleviate her boredom. One day she discovers Anna being suspended from the ceiling of an outhouse by the men who work on the land. She is attracted to one of them, Sebastian, and the next day deliberately encounters him on the land.
Presently, Sebastian comes to the house to visit Katherine. Initially resistant, Katherine admits him, and they have sex. Thereafter they begin an affair. Anna informs the local priest, who attempts to warn Katherine, but Katherine sends him away. After some time Boris returns home. Having been informed of Katherine and Sebastian's affair, he beats Sebastian and locks him in a stable, and threatens Katherine when she demands his release. Katherine responds by poisoning his food, and calmly makes small talk with Anna as he chokes to death in the next room.
Alexander does not return for his father's funeral. Anna is terrified into muteness by the experience, and the old man is buried without suspicion. Katherine becomes more confident in her management of the estate, and she and Sebastian continue their affair openly. They discuss their love for and devotion to each other.
One night while they are asleep in Katherine's marital bed, Katherine awakes to realise that Alexander has returned home. Sebastian hides while Alexander comes upstairs. Alexander reveals that he is aware of Katherine's infidelity. At first defensive, Katherine calls Sebastian into the room and they start to undress each other in front of him. A fight ensues, during which Katherine kills Alexander. To cover their crime, Sebastian and Katherine bury Alexander's body in the woods and kill his horse. They are not directly accused of the murder, and Sebastian even begins to dress and behave as the lord of the manor himself.
One day a woman arrives at the estate with a young boy, Teddy. The woman claims that Teddy is the product of an affair between Alexander and her daughter. Initially resistant, Katherine accepts responsibility for sheltering the pair as their legal documentation is valid. The changed circumstances prompt Sebastian to angrily return to the outhouse. Around this time she realises she is pregnant but is unable to inform Sebastian. She also begins to bond with Teddy.
One day Katherine scolds Teddy, prompting Teddy to disappear. Sebastian joins in the search and finds Teddy sitting on a rock over a waterfall. He rescues him and returns him to the house, but admits to Katherine that he considered pushing him, and decides to leave the house. Katherine persuades him to stay, promising to do anything he wants in return. Katherine convinces Teddy's grandmother, who is caring for him after his ordeal, to get some sleep. Katherine and Sebastian use the opportunity to smother Teddy to death. Sebastian hides in the woods while Katherine claims that Teddy died in his sleep. The village doctor is sceptical of the story, but while the issue is being discussed, Sebastian returns from the woods in grief, and confesses everything. Calmly, Katherine turns his confession back on him, and accuses him of committing all the murders with Anna. Her word is taken over his, especially when Anna remains mute. As Sebastian and Anna are taken away by the police, Katherine remains alone in the house with her unborn child.
- Florence Pugh as Katherine Lester
- Cosmo Jarvis as Sebastian
- Naomi Ackie as Anna
- Christopher Fairbank as Boris Lester
- Paul Hilton as Alexander Lester
In September 2015, it was announced Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Christopher Fairbank, Naomi Ackie and Paul Hilton had been cast in the film, with William Oldroyd directing from a screenplay by Alice Birch.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2016. Shortly after, Roadside Attractions and Altitude Film Distribution acquired US and UK distribution rights to the film, respectively. It went onto screen at the BFI London Film Festival on 14 October 2016 and the Sundance Film Festival on 20 January 2017.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 89% based on 135 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Lady Macbeth flashes some surprising toughness beneath its period exterior, bolstered by a mesmerizing – and unforgiving – central performance by Florence Pugh." On Metacritic, which assigns an average rating to reviews, the film has a weighted score of 76 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Guy Lodge of Variety said "Florence Pugh announces herself as a major talent to watch in William Oldroyd's impressively tough-minded Victorian tragedy." Mick LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle writes "Oldroyd's approach to Lady Macbeth guarantees some longueurs as the film wears on. But the clarity with which Pugh and Oldroyd communicate Katherine's thoughts and motives maintains a sold interest throughout."
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