The Beguiled: Film Review

I love most Sofia Coppola movies (I still don’t get the hype about Lost in Translation) and I love the cast in this – Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst – so obviously I was excited to check it out and I was not disappointed. It is a fantastic drama simmering with sexual desire and a slow-burning tension.

One day while out picking mushrooms, Amy (Oona Lawrence) discovers wounded soldier John  (Farrell), who has fled the Civil War and sought refuge in the woods. She takes him back to her all girls school and the headmistress Miss Martha (Kidman) decides to let him recover before turning him in. During his weeks at the school, he develops various connections with the women who each vie for his attention with disastrous consequences.

The film is so intriguing because it is very much about what is not said so you’re never sure if John is being sincere or if he is playing them against each other on purpose. His connections to the main players are very different, from platonic, to love, to sexual desire and watching them play out is fascinating because you didn’t know what was going to happen, although I had a suspicion it would end badly all round.

It was great to see a man being objectified for once with sexy shots of his sweaty body while he’s chopping wood, for example. We are so used to seeing woman being shown in this way so it was refreshing to see the tables turned. Farrell was excellent once again (he is on a roll!) because I never knew what to make of John. His personality goes through many changes and you don’t know which one is really him.

Equally on point was Kidman, who plays the authority figure who is jealous of John’s affections for Edwina (Dunst), while Dunst played the repressive teacher who was desperately unhappy and hoped John would be her escape. Fanning is the rebellious and naughty one who flirts with John but her character wasn’t quite as scandalous onscreen as I’d hoped. The rest of the younger cast, including Angourie Rice, Emma Howard and Addison Riecke are great too as they add to the shock and awe of a man’s presence and the hysteria when things take a bad turn.

I don’t have any serious criticisms about this because it was exactly as sexy and intriguing and tense as I wanted it to be and the ending was fantastically dark. It is definitely bloodier than expected and some people may criticise the slow pace but I think that worked as it made it more tense later on. Perhaps I like this so much because I’m unable to compare it to the book and the 1971 film but on its own merit, it is a very good and beautifully shot film with terrific performances.

In cinemas Friday 14th July 

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