A teenage woman (a ferocious Florence Pugh – Midsommar, Little Women) in 19th-century England is sold into a loveless marriage with a bitter man twice her age, and during her husband’s protracted absence launches a steamy and increasingly careless affair with a hunky stable groom (Cosmo Jarvis). Inevitably, they are found out, with explosive, murderous consequences (the second murder being the most shocking).
This stark debut feature from William Oldroyd, a theater and opera director, is not an easy sit, but it’s superbly acted and absolutely mesmerizing. Its multi-layered plot also weaves in subtly contemporary observations on class, race and gender. Most notably, it upends period-piece norms as we watch the anti-heroine morph from victim to villainess. It’s quite chilling. (89 min)