(director: William Oldroyd; screenwriters: Alice Birch/based on Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov; cinematographer: Ari Wegner; editor: Nick Emerson; music: Dan Jones; cast: Florence Pugh (Katherine), Naomi Ackie (Anna), Christopher Fairbank (Boris), Cosmo Jarvis (Sebastian), Paul Hilton (Alexander), Bill Fellows (Dr. Bourdon); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly; Roadside Attractions; 2016)

A Victorian chamber piece with a dubious moralityand cautionary feminist designs.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Theater director William Oldroyd in his feature directing debut does a marvelous job filming it as a Victorian chamber piece with a dubious morality and cautionary feminist tale. Despite its title there are no allusions to the Scottish play by Shakespeare. It’s based on the 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Russian writer Nikolai Leskov.

It’s scripted in an austere manner by playwright Alice Birch.

It’s set in rural northern England, in 1865. The teenager Katherine (Florence Pugh) is locked into a loveless arranged marriage with an impotent, weak and sadistic son of an industrialist, Alexander (Paul Hilton), who is twice as old. His landowner father Boris (Christopher Fairbank), who arranged the marriage with her father for land, is cold to her. Katherine attracts the attention of the cocky mixed race groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis, singer). Their steamy relationship highlights the intrigue that follows when hubby and father-in-law leave her alone while on a business trip, as the vulnerable, oppressed lady turns the tables on her oppressor and the tale turns violent. Katherine’s maid Anna (Naomi Ackie) is also of a mixed race – which adds the element of racism to the toxic one of class divide.