Movie Review – Victoria and Abdul

Stephen Frears once again dramatizes the past in Victoria & Abdul.


Zachary Cruz-Tan

Like so many movies of this age, Victoria & Abdul speaks about human prejudice and the wanton savagery pre-programmed into our social preferences, but, in fact, I think it is more about the fear of growing old and lonely, outliving all our loved ones and gradually disintegrating into a shell of our former selves. It is this fear of dying that led Victoria to do outlandish things in her later years, like falling asleep during state dinners and keeping a lowly Indian servant as her closest companion.

This is another biographical movie directed by Stephen Frears and headlines yet another effortless performance by Judi Dench, who, as M in the Bond movies, always exercised a firm hand and a sharp tongue. Here, as a withering monarch, she is like M’s great-great-grandmother draped in what looks like doilies. She is caring and inquisitive, but may God bless your soul if you try to cross her.

On the celebration of her Golden Jubilee, she is presented with a ceremonial coin by two Indians, snatched from their home in Agra and shipped off to the land of their colonisers. One of them, the tall and handsome one, is Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Almost at once, he catches the queen’s eye and she is stricken by a fearful fascination with this bearded foreign man.

Abdul is charming and intelligent, and beguiles Victoria with tales of his home, a land Victoria’s empire has conquered that she has never visited or even learnt about. She is told of the story of the Taj Mahal. She is taught Hindi and Urdu. She is introduced to Indian spices and fruit. And when she sends for Abdul’s wife, she is startled to find her hidden beneath impenetrable black silk. It’s like stepping over the threshold into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Victoria’s interest in what her subordinates consider to be an inferior being creates tension in the palace, and soon her subjects and eldest son, Bertie (a somewhat puzzling Eddie Izzard), are threatening to resign. We could debate the merits of their consternation for years, but the central inherent racism of the English aristocracy works, within the confines of the film, to bolster our support for Abdul, who may not be the most upstanding young man but is certainly the right elixir for a waning old lady in desperate need of a strong shoulder to lean on. Dench and Fazal share some real chemistry, and while the bickering between Victoria’s subjects adds spice to the proceedings, it’s the scenes between the monarch and companion that really pop with drama.

Frears has made some delightful and intelligent films based on the lives of real people and seems to have a deft touch when it comes to dealing with the English crown. In 2006 he made The Queen, one of the greatest movies about the fragile relationship between royalty and its people. Victoria & Abdul is not one of his best. It slips sometimes into sentimentality and lacks the professional stroke present in his earlier work, but it is held aloft by the charm and honesty of its two leads, who both see the error of Britain’s ways, but are too caught up in the formidable character of the other to really do anything about it.

Victoria and Abdul is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017

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Movie Review – Patti Cake$

In his debut feature, Geremy Jasper delivers an endearing film about chasing your dreams even when the odds are stacked against you.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

If someone pitched a film to you about an overweight white girl from the wrong side of the tracks with aspirations to be rap star… well, you’d probably think it a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, this story of Patricia Dombrowski aka Patti Cake$ actually holds up to deliver a tale of ambition and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Patricia (Danielle Macdonald) dreams of escaping Jersey with her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) to seek fame and fortune, and most importantly, a recording contract. But will her responsibilities to her sick Nan and her alcoholic mother keep her from accomplishing her goals?

The trailers for Patti Cake$ set it up as an 8 Mile-come-Fish Tank-come-Precious blend, but instead Patti Cake$ brings a lot of heart, hope and some killer beats. It is the first feature for director, writer and composer Geremy Jasper, and his ability to capture Patti’s hardships as well as the character’s flaws in a sympathetic light is this film’s overarching strength.

In her unwavering belief in her rap abilities, Australia’s Danielle Macdonald brings an innocence to Patti that makes you want to root for her. Her relationship with Dhananjay is uplifting and funny, and amazingly remains a platonic friendship, which is unusual, but actually a relief.

The most impressive part of this film by far is the music. Jasper composed all the tracks in the film, and Macdonald’s ability to rap out the slick lines is really impressive. Rap fan or not, the music is catchy and full of attitude, but most importantly, fun. It’s not angry or abusive like Eminem in 8 Mile, but rather heartfelt and earnest, softening the abrasive nature that is often associated with the rap genre.

Equally impressive is the film’s fully constructed narrative, which I honestly haven’t seen in a long time. All the characters experience their own trials and tribulations and demonstrate clear growth.  The story, no matter how simple and formulaic, feels complete when it ends.

With a break-out cast and director, Patti Cake$ ability to look at the harshness of reality and examine people’s flaws without judging them makes this film a must-see. It’s a film that tells you never to give up on your dreams and to persevere in doing what you love.

Patti Cake$ is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox 

Movie Review – The Dinner

And you thought your family dinners were awkward… Bon appétit!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan), an excessively cynical former history teacher, and his more understanding wife Claire (Laura Linney) are invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant. They’re hosted by Paul’s older brother Stan (Richard Gere), a prominent politician on the eve of being elected governor, and his much younger wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). The aim of the evening is to discuss a number of ongoing family issues, but given the volatile and contemptuous nature of each of them, things get extremely heated and venomous…

The third adaptation of Herman Koch’s bestselling Dutch novel of the same name (and the first in English), Oren Moverman’s (The Messenger, Time Out of Mind) Americanised take on The Dinner can’t help but feel a little diluted by now. Luckily, its substance is so hefty it works well all over again in a new setting, and still manages to be as fascinating and thought-provoking as it is difficult viewing.

It’s best to pull up a seat at the table without much knowledge of why this dinner has been organised and what shit is about to go down; we’re introduced to the loathsome Lohmans just before they’re about to meet, and it immediately becomes apparent that we’re in for a hostile showdown.

Richard Gere may have top billing, and we certainly see his star power come out in the film’s second half, but really this position belongs to the hugely underrated Steve Coogan, who trades in his usual comedic self for a serious and smart performance that steers the story. Coogan’s Paul is not someone you’d want to be in the same room with for very long, but as unpleasant as he can be, it’s sometimes hard not to see the logic and reasoning behind his often negative assessments.

The women, too, hold their ground against the boys, with Laura Linney on point as usual. Most surprising is Rebecca Hall, who could have been written off as the ditzy trophy wife; instead, she’s mature and often more reasonable than her older kin, and probably the closest any of the characters come to being likeable. But she too, like the others, has you wishing she’d choke on her food at times.

The sparks fly thanks to each one of the characters having both feasible and debateable opinions, making it truly difficult to get behind any one of them, but delicious to watch as their clashing personalities explode against one another. It’s a feel-bad time, but if there’s one gripe it’s that it isn’t quite vicious enough; it all feels like it’s building to a truly dark and distressing event that doesn’t quite pay off, ending rather abruptly. Chances are you won’t like this film, but for once that’s the very reason you should see it.

The Dinner is available in Australian cinemas from September 7

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution 

Movie Review – Gifted

Witness a seven-year-old embarrass your intellect as she solves complex math problems and makes an idiot out of everyone she meets in this year’s dumbest smart movie.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Desperate for the niece he’s raised as a de facto guardian to have a normal childhood, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) enrols seven-year-old Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a public elementary school after years of home schooling. On her first day, she impresses her teacher Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) with her incredible mathematical talent, prompting the principal to suggest Frank take her to a private school. Frank refuses, which attracts the attention of his cold and calculating mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan). Believing Mary is in need of a strict education regime, she takes her son to court in a custody battle for who should become the young girl’s guardian.

After fumbling around in blockbuster territory with his not-so-Amazing Spider-Man duology, Marc Webb has wisely scaled down and stepped back into the indie comedy-drama field that made him prolific. Well, sort of. Gifted is not without its merits, but that wit, originality and intuition that made (500) Days of Summer stick in the mind seems to have been lost while Webb was busy web-slinging. Gifted is simple, straightforward, and nowhere near as remarkable as the young girl at its centre.

To be fair, there is plenty to commend about Gifted. Mckenna Grace already has a longer filmography than some seasoned actors ever will. She brims with natural charisma and is easily the film’s standout, effortlessly making us laugh and feel for her. Frank is another everyman for Chris Evans, and hardly a stretch of his talent, but it’s refreshing to see him in a role more vulnerable than Captain America for a change, and his chemistry with both Grace and Jenny Slate saves what could have been a bland and banal father-figure.

There is an interesting trick or two towards the end of the film and the courtroom drama, though brief, remains the most engaging segment. But everything else leading up to this is borrows to heavily from every cliché in melodramatic tearjerker in history.

Good intentions drown in a suffocating dose of sickly sweet schmaltz – scenes where Mary sits atop Frank’s shoulders, trading lines about family values that could be straight out of a Hallmark gift card are gag-worthy. It’s not enough for Mary to be clever; she’s able to solve renowned equations that have puzzled the world’s greatest mathematicians for years. All of this might have a little integrity were it to have some basis in reality or even on a particularly inspired book to give it some believability, but as an original, it’s pretty ridiculous.

The fine performances, occasional clever moments and tearjerker bits (manipulative though they are) keep this watchable enough. But, like learning algebra, don’t expect it to have a profound impact on your life.

Gifted is available in Australian cinemas from August 31

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – Maudie

If a tribute to an artist has created a greater appreciation for her life and creative output, it’s certainly done its job.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

Based on the life of the brilliant but physically and mentally challenged artist Maud Lewis, Maudie (Sally Hawkins), an arthritic and ill woman living in 1930’s Nova Scotia, is fed up with the cruelty of her overbearing family. She seizes the opportunity to escape by responding to an ad posted by the town fisherman Everett (Ethan Hawke), seeking a housekeeper. She moves in with him, and though the awkward pair clash initially, a mutual fondness forms.

There’s a strong sense of Mike Leigh’s influence flowing through Aisling Walsh’s (TV’s The Bill and Roughnecks) biopic Maudie. It’s heavily reminiscent of his “kitchen sink realism” style, in which the narrative is built around its characters, who are more than a little disillusioned with reality. It feels like everything Maudie and Everett say and do is organic to the moment rather than adhering to a script.

It’s appropriate then that this recalls Sally Hawkins’ breakout role in Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, which similarly dealt with a sweet, well-intentioned, but almost cripplingly naïve woman attempting to connect with a gruff loner. Here her character’s flaws are more severe, yet it’s a subtler performance that’s worthy of awards. She’s clearly taken Leigh’s intense methods and preparations to heart and used them to define herself and mature greatly as an actress. Her commitment to bringing Maudie to twitching, fidgety life is outstanding.

Playing second-fiddle and almost as impressive is Ethan Hawke, who’s only become more and more versatile as his career has progressed. Proving this, he gives us another side to him we haven’t seen before. He is intriguingly mysterious; we know that he grew up in an orphanage but not much else about what’s made him a similarly damaged match for Maudie. His odd couple banter and erratic behaviour towards her – one minute he’s ashamed to reveal her to people he knows and is hitting her, the next he’s attempting to be intimate with her – keeps him compelling.

The film does lose momentum as it goes on unfortunately; it seems there’s only so much drama that can be wrung out of two oddballs clashing in the confines of a tiny household. It’s also quite an isolated and surface level look at a small part of an amazing woman’s life, and given a somewhat lengthy runtime padded out with a lot of slow moments, there’s much more to Maud Lewis’ story that could have been explored. But as an acting showcase, it’s a work of art. And since the film’s release internationally, there’s been a resurgence in interest in Lewis and her work.

Maudie is available in Australian cinemas from August 24 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films 

Movie Review – The Wall

The reliable Doug Liman turns his scope to a breezy, small-scale war drama.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The most surprising thing about The Wall is how small it is. It has just three actors: John Cena as Sergeant Shane Matthews; Laith Nakli as Juba, a voice on a radio; and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Sergeant Allen “Eyes” Isaac, who carries the entire shebang on his blessedly charismatic shoulders. With two out of the three offscreen most of the time, the vast majority of the film is spent watching Taylor-Johnson circle the titular wall in 2007 Iraq while dodging sniper fire from Nakli. That’s the entire film: Taylor-Johnson being shot at by an unseen enemy while Cena plays dead.

With so little narrative meat, director Doug Liman – more famous for blockbusters like Edge of Tomorrow – relies entirely on Taylor-Johnson’s screen presence and his chemistry with Nakli. Thankfully, neither of those things are in short supply. Both performers bring their A-game: Taylor-Johnson is desperate, but resourceful and rivetingly human in his pain, while Nakli manages to sell even severe clichés like “we’re not so different, you and I.”

It helps that writer Dwain Worrell’s (Iron Fist) dialogue isn’t all clichés. His television work might not do him any favours, but here Worrell at least makes both his villain and his protagonists entertaining. It’s a pleasure hearing the initial banter between Cena and Taylor-Johnson and better still, Worrell sidesteps any questionable politics. You might think that a film called The Wall would have a Trump reference or two, but Worrell dodges that bullet and instead focuses on the barrier representing post-war Iraq.

The Wall’s short length is to its benefit; it’s breezy pace ensures the dialogue keeps snapping when it needs to, and a lack of padding means you’ll walk out satisfied. It’s an above average war drama with no other major aspirations, and there’s a certain nobility within that objective. This is a film more interested in entertaining than enlightening, and that’s something that should be appreciated every once in a while. No frills, no BS, just two men fighting for their lives in hellish conditions. I can get behind that.

The Wall is available in Australian cinemas from August 10 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – A Ghost Story

Pretention be damned – less a film than a feeling, the emotional experience that is A Ghost Story is positively haunting.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan 

A young couple, dubbed only as C (Casey Affleck) and M (Rooney Mara), see their not-so-perfect suburban life meet its end when C is killed in a headlong collision. He awakens in his afterlife as a ghost, still in the living world, yet invisible to everyone around him. Unable to cease existing, he seeks to connect with his wife – a journey that will take him to the end and beginning of time.

There’s not a trace of conflict in A Ghost Story. There’s barely a plot, and save for a handful of exchanges and one weighty, thought-provoking monologue, there’s very little dialogue. There are no visual effects in creating C’s supernatural apparition – Casey Affleck quite literally wears a bed sheet with eyeholes cut out of it – and much of the film consists of long, lingering scenes in which his spirit simply stands and watches life go by in all its significance and insignificance. And yet, David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) miniscule passion project is bold, profound and possibly the best film of 2017 so far.

Made in secret on a shoestring budget cobbled together from what Disney paid him for Pete’s Dragon, Lowery’s big ideas transcend money limitations and the shackles of traditional storytelling to form a breathtaking and masterful rumination on love, life and death, memory and time, existence and its meaning (or lack thereof) and much, much more. It’s so shockingly simplistic in its execution that budding filmmakers everywhere are no doubt kicking themselves that they didn’t think of it first.

Something so artful is, naturally, not going to appeal to everyone’s tastes. It’s going to be a non-event for anyone who expects structure and showiness in their cinema, and is likely to frustrate with its meandering and drawn-out nature. But hopefully most will be able to absorb the richness and beauty that perpetuates its seemingly inconsequential moments.

C’s journey takes turns as simultaneously funny and sad as he’s confined to his house and forced to watch generations pass and new tenants shack up. A fellow ghost next door (who as the credits reveal is, strangely enough, played by a certain pop star everyone except Jerry Seinfeld would recognise) communicates amusingly with C, but tragically reveals that it can’t remember who it is waiting for. This melancholy of being unable to do anything but wait truly resonates, with Lowery cleverly framing in a 4:3 letterbox with rounded edges – not unlike a polaroid – giving that claustrophobic feeling that reflects the ghost’s own sense of being trapped for eternity.

Granted, there’s not a great deal of acting one can do from beneath a bed sheet, but Casey Affleck makes C’s odyssey endearing and hypnotic, attesting to the strong work he and Rooney Mara do when they share the screen in human form. And at the heart of it all is Daniel Hart’s mystic, synth-heavy score that perfects that cosmic feeling. You’ll leave cathartic, satisfied and enlightened; Lowery has done proud A24’s continuing reputation for releasing today’s most interesting films.

A Ghost Story is available in Australian cinemas from July 27 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan serves up another masterpiece in his scarily authentic capturing of Operation Dynamo.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

It’s May 1940. The Allied forces of Britain, France, Canada and Belgium have been rapidly driven back across Europe by the ruthless German army, and now find themselves encircled on a stretch of beach called Dunkirk. 400,000 soldiers are practically in sight of safety, but, without a fully mobilised navy to carry them across the English Channel, are under threat of persistent bombing and shelling. A flotilla of civilian vessels is commissioned to ferry the soldiers home, but time is running out as the Germans steadily tighten the noose and advance on the beach.

It is this colossal military disaster (Winston Churchill’s words, not mine) that visionary writer/director Christopher Nolan tackles in Dunkirk, his tenth feature film. Using an ensemble cast of British actors (Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance), Nolan plunges the audience into the midst of the action at a moment’s notice. For 106 minutes and across three brilliantly staged threads, Dunkirk is wall-to-wall tension and existential dread that holds you in its firm grasp.

It does this by composing its story across a trio of intersecting and overlapping timelines; one told across a week, the second a single day and the final a mere hour. They all begin at the start and come together briefly at the end, which ensures the film always has something happening and actions in motion.

There are no rousing speeches and no soaring fanfare; Nolan eschews longwinded exposition or lengthy character backstories, with some reflecting the harsh namelessness of wartime by simply being called something like Shivering Soldier, as is case of Murphy’s character.

Remarkably, this is one war film where the enemy is not once glimpsed in the flesh. And yet, despite that, the Germans are a persistent presence – from the first frame through to the very last, they cast a long shadow over everything. Nolan imbues the film with a trickling sense of dread that soaks into every frame, so that even though the enemy is never seen, their aura is never absent.

In a technical sense, Dunkirk personifies exemplary. The throbbing soundtrack, once again courtesy of frequent collaborator Hans Zimmer, employs blaring horns and sheer noise to rattle your bones. An almost omnipresent ticking stopwatch underlines the impeccable sound design, which places you in the moment. Every bullet carves the screen and lands with a deafening thud; every dive from a Stuka bomber pierces the air like a shrieking banshee. It’s a terrifying aural and sensory assault from which the audience is unable to escape, much like the stranded soldiers around which the film revolves.

Nolan’s slavish pursuit of authenticity in Dunkirk is just one in long list of commendable aspects. Is it his magnum opus? It’s simply too soon to say, and with a filmography that also boasts The Prestige, Inception and Memento, it’s a question that is practically impossible to definitively answer. However, it is undoubtedly his most haunting and his most visceral, and you owe it to yourself to seek out the largest screen possible to soak it in.

And yes, for the One Direction fan who somehow found their way onto this review; Harry Styles does look pretty perf in camo.

Dunkirk is available in Australian cinemas from July 20

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Paris Can Wait

Another Coppola steps into the spotlight, but this one proves herself better at crafting a travelogue than a film.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a workaholic movie producer unable to put his phone down for five minutes. Their vacation to Paris has been delayed as Michael must stop over in Budapest, a plan which hits a bump when Anne can’t board the plane due to an ear infection. Michael’s French business partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) is headed for Paris anyway, and offers to drive Anne, to which they both agree. But what was meant to be a short car trip stretches into a leisurely journey, leading Anne to grow suspicious over Jacque’s flirtatious nature and his use of her credit card on every meal and hotel.

Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia) has spent most of her life documenting behind the scenes of her famous family’s films – most notoriously Heart of Darkness, which exposed the troubled production of Apocalypse Now. But now, at 81, she’s made her first foray into fiction, writing and directing Paris Can Wait. The result is about as far away from the works of her kin as you can get. Paris Can Wait is an airy, sort-of romance mostly devoid of the standard plot and character development you’d expect of a film – even a sense of purpose seems absent.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as Paris Can Wait is still quite a pleasant time. It’s mostly saved due to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads, particularly Diane Lane, who so naturally slides into the role of neglected yet optimistically-minded wife, and is given a bit of emotional depth when she reveals a somewhat tragic backstory. Coppola is certainly confident behind the camera, capturing the beautiful scenery of the French countryside in wonderfully warm shots, and has a very keen eye for the mouth-watering dishes and desserts the pair are served in their very frequent restaurant stopovers.

But the visual goodies and Jacques’ ruminations on wine and culture can only amuse for so long. With so little in the way of conflict or interesting ideas or… anything actually happening, it turns into a bit of drag. It’s not long before we, like Anne, just want to hurry up and get to Paris already. It’s hard to shake the sense that the film is a disguise for everyone involved to take a paid vacation across France, since it feels for the most part like a feature-length travel advertisement for the country.

The most criminal waste here is Alec Baldwin, who’s given what amounts to less than five minutes screen time and little to do other than express his jealousy of Anne and Jacques spending time together over the phone, despite barely seeming to notice her when he is around.

Given Michael’s prominence in film, one can’t help but wonder if there’s an autobiographical angle to Eleanor Coppola’s story – surely she hasn’t been in a similar situation with Francis Ford? And what would he be thinking when he sees this? Once again, the real substance lurks behind the scenes for Eleanor.

Paris Can Wait is available in Australian cinemas from July 19 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

Movie Review – The Beguiled

Sexuality turns sinister in Sofia Coppola’s bewitching return to a more savage era.

 ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

A girls’ seminary stands isolated in rural Virginia during the American Civil War, where several young women and their teachers remain sheltered from the violence raging on outside. While roaming the fields one day, one of the youngest girls stumbles upon a wounded Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) and helps him back to the school. The proprietor, Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman), is wary of helping an enemy soldier, but eventually gives in to the girls’ pleas to nurse him back to health. The house is soon in disarray as everyone’s fascination with the soldier turns into obsession, and sexual tension and rivalry swells as both the teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and eldest student Alicia (Elle Fanning) make known their attraction to him. Pressures boil and erupt, and things soon take a dark and unexpected turn.

Though technically a remake, or a new spin on the same source novel (the original, weirdly enough, was by the Dirty Harry team Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood), the notorious Sofia Coppola’s take on The Beguiled is her freshest and most interesting film in years. It’s without question her most thrilling film, and marks a slight departure from her signature dressy drama style – at least in the film’s second half.

Curiously, it also feels somewhat like a return to the dynamic of her debut feature, The Virgin Suicides. In a similar vein, it lures us into a mystifying group of women and their sexual frustrations and relationships with one another. But we’re never quite given all the pieces of their puzzle, so they remain enticingly mysterious – beguiling, if you will.

It’s a slow burner, but also a wickedly entertaining ride, balancing its flirtations with a welcome helping of humour. The older actors – Farrell, Kidman and Dunst – are on typical good form, particularly Farrell, who’s given great opportunity to exhibit a descent from charming larrikin to unhinged madman.

But it’s the younger actresses who really excel and make an impression here. The always excellent Elle Fanning doesn’t get quite as much screen time to flaunt herself as usual, but she’s mastered the art of the temptress, oozing sexuality like a walking aphrodisiac with her endlessly breathy vocals and seductive looks. Australia’s own Angourie Rice could very well be the next Elle Fanning with her naturally distinctive looks and charisma. The most junior member Oona Laurence runs away with the most laughs, unafraid to voice her thoughts on her innocent fixation with the Corporal.

The inclinations, intentions and morality of these characters becomes extremely hazy, so it’s difficult to know who to root for, if anyone at all. Like Lady Macbeth, the alleged “pro-feminist stance” this has been said by some to take is debatable, given the disturbing nature through which it is triumphed; nonetheless Coppola’s return to fine form is a terrific, beguiling achievement.

The Beguiled is available in Australian cinemas from July 12 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017