Eileen - Film Review

Eileen - Film Review


Posted 2023-10-30 by Serena Reidyfollow

William Oldroyd returned to BFI London Film Festival for the second time after his 2016 film Lady Macbeth this October with Eileen, adapted from Ottessa Moshfegh's 2015 novel of the same name. Transporting viewers back to the 1960s, Eileen is an engrossing tale of obsession and loneliness that centres on two women who are unexpectedly drawn together.

Thomasin McKenzie is Eileen, a mousy and reclusive young woman who spends her days as a secretary at a prison facility, and her evenings looking after her alcoholic father (Shea Whigham). Her somewhat mundane existence is disrupted when the alluring Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) starts working as a psychiatrist at the prison. Eileen becomes instantly fixated with Rebecca, and the pair soon strike up a friendship that offers both women a chance to escape from reality. However, it isn't long before things take a dark turn and Eileen realises that her new friend isn't as perfect as she seems...

Director William Oldroyd and cinematographer Ari Wegner have teamed up for the second time since Lady Macbeth to create a slow-burning, haunting and unpredictable thriller. Eileen will unsurprisingly draw parallels to Last Night in Soho (2021), another film in which Thomasin McKenzie portrays a lonely young woman who becomes fascinated with another. The two films share similar themes (notably nostalgia, toxic masculinity, isolation, fantasy and escapism), stylish visuals, and a 1960s setting. One might also compare Eileen to Carol (2015), due to their central focus on the age-gap relationship between two women, and the fact that they both take place in the middle of winter. As in Carol, there are hints at a romance between Eileen and Rebecca - and plenty of tension between the pair - although it never gets the chance to fully develop.

What makes Eileen so brilliant is the acting from its two leads. Thomasin McKenzie has proved herself one of the most versatile actresses of her generation, with noteworthy roles in Last Night in Soho, Leave No Trace (2018) and Jojo Rabbit (2019). She brings a natural blend of awkwardness, curiosity and naivety to Eileen. Anne Hathaway is striking as the femme fatale who captures Eileen's attention as soon as she steps foot into the prison. As Rebecca, Hathaway is elegant and mysterious, and oozes confidence - she's the complete opposite to Eileen, who's sheltered and lives her life vicariously through other people. Credit goes to Rori Bergman and Jeanne McCarthy for their casting decisions - the film's Eileen and Rebecca are just how I imagined the characters while reading the book.

Oldroyd masterfully weaves together multiple genres in Eileen, dipping into Hitchcockian noir, psychological drama, mystery and coming of age. The film pulls you in right from the start with its absorbing narrative, and there's never a dull moment in its 98 minute runtime. While Eileen takes a sharp turn in its denouement that has already polarised viewers during its festival run, it's worth sticking to the end due to the mesmerising and award-worthy acting from Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie, and its unsettling storytelling.

Eileen will be available in UK cinemas from 1st December.

267433 - 2023-10-29 10:38:04


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