Brimstone: Film Review

Brimstone is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re after a pleasant watch this is not the film for you. In fact it’s the opposite – it’s heavy, brutal and intense, but a good film nonetheless.

Dakota Fanning plays Liz, who communicates with her husband and kids via sign language because she has no tongue. She helps women deliver babies and one day after a birth goes wrong and the baby dies, the Reverend (Guy Pearce) decides she is evil and must be punished. He will not stop until she has paid for her sins.

The western is structured in four chapters which are named after sections of the Bible. In the first, you can’t help but wonder why the Reverend is so fixated on Liz, but these questions are answered over the course of the film – the second section comes chronologically before the first and so on. It would be unfair to spoil anything but believe me, you learn all about their connection, why she has no tongue and much much more. I really liked this structure because it made the film more interesting, giving us information out of order and building mystery while eventually filling in the whole picture so it’s all explained.

We know Pearce can play twisted characters so it’s no surprise he aces it here. Fanning is very good because she’s vulnerable but determined to not give up and let this man ruin her life and she does this all without speaking (in the beginning). Younger Liz is a completely different person, going by the name Joanna, and young Joanna (played by Emilia Jones) is impressive in such an intense role.

This is extremely violent and gory. Early on, a man is disemboweled and strung up by his intestines and that’s just the start. We also have rape, whipping, tongue removal etc. I’m not adverse to violence if it makes sense in the story and it did help to show how much of a sick, perverted man the Reverend is, but it was too much and eventually became hard to take. Some people even walked out of the film! It is an oppressive and intense watch but it’s still a well-made film about a woman not letting a man stop her living her life.

Seen as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival, where it was in the Official Competition. 

In cinemas Friday 29th September

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