Thomasin McKenzie (Old) and Anne Hathaway (rebounding from She Came to Me) are conflicted cohorts in William Oldroyd’s Eileen, a low-key chiller that slowly draws in the viewer despite the film itself not being much of a mindblower.
Set in the 1960s, Eileen (McKenzie) can’t cool down her curiousity when it comes to relationships and sex. Working as a junior secretary at an all-boys prison has her mind racing, and a newly recruited psychologist, Rebecca (Hathaway), complicates her thoughts even more. Rebecca takes Eileen under her wing and hit it off in no time. The friendship is a relief considering Eileen’s home life consists of being a forced caretaker to her hostile father (Shea Whigham), a man Eileen fantasizes about killing.
Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth) allows his movie to wash over the audience, no matter the subject matter. Because Eileen is so preoccupied by her imagination, there are sequences that Oldroyd allows to play out without much explanation; leaving the audience in a purposeful ambiguous funk that isn’t frustrating but gets repetitive and less interesting over time. Rebecca’s presence is even toyed with as Eileen appears to be the only person who can have an in-depth connection with her.
Adapting from Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel, screenwriters Luke Goebel and Moshfegh (Causeway) uncover details of this psychological drama at right times, but reveals are made to blend in with the rest of the movie and occasional miss their moment to shock or surprise the audience. Oldroyd may have a knack for character-driven material (much of the movie feels like a horror rendition of Carol, which is fun), but he comes up short when trying to shift the narrative tone into a different mode.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie