This sure is turning out to be a bumper year. Only just over one third exhausted and there's already a crowded field vying to make it into my Top 10 of 2017. Here's yet another strong contender.
Based on a novella by Nikolai Leskov, 'Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk', (which you, like me, may recognise as being the title of a Shostakovich opera), this film transfers the action from Russia to the bleak far north of England - and Northumberland was where it was shot. The nod to Shakespeare's character ought not to be taken too far. In both play and this film, the female character (here called Catherine), is a resolutely self-willed woman who connives in, or even executes, at least two murders. Pursuing any further analogy is pointless.
The film opens in the 19th century with Catherine (Florence Pugh - amazing!) getting locked into a loveless, though reasonably affluent, marriage-of-convenience. She soon shows she's made of steel and not to be pushed around, which her husband and his father resent as being unbecoming to a 'lady' in the society of that time.
When her husband (Paul Hilton) goes away for a while she takes on a menial lover (Cosmo Jarvis), trying to hide the affair from the servants, not entirely successfully.
It's hard to say much more without spoiling it, as there are a number of 'shocks' in the story which caused me to take a deep intake of breath - shocks more in the nature of the unexpected way the story was going rather than the 'jump-in-your-seat' kind (though I really could have done without having to see the shooting of a horse).
Dialogue throughout is spare and effective. There's a slow and deliberate pace to the (90 mins) film which suits the tale.
Also, it must be remarked that there's a refreshing colour-blindness to cast members, unlikely for its time, though it didn't get in the way for me at all
I think director William Oldroyd is to be congratulated on this feature. It has been criticised in some quarters as exhibiting a degree of tastelessness in some areas, but I'd rate the risk-taking as one of its many strong points. And I'm going to look out for the next feature starring the luminous Florence Pugh................8.
1 hour ago