During the US Civil War, the headmistress (Nicole Kidman) of a Southern girls’ boarding school, a teacher (Kirsten Dunst) and a handful of sheltered young maidens (including teenager Elle Fanning), take in a wounded Union soldier, an Irish mercenary (Colin Farrell).

The man’s presence introduces sexual tension to the previously serene, ordered household, exacerbated not a little by his being a voracious manipulator. Emotions seethe just beneath the polite surface; rivalries and betrayals ensue.

Sofia Coppola’s best film to date is riveting, sensual and slyly witty; a wickedly fun potboiler that’s ever so slightly whacko and full of surprises. (93 min)