When listing off the most recognizable female characters in history it doesn’t take long before Lady Macbeth shows up. Showing up in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she was a completely memorizing character and was arguably more evil than Macbeth himself. We’ve seen multiple works in Hollywood tackle Shakespeare’s epic, with the latest one starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the titular characters. Lady Macbeth, however, is the first movie where we get to look at Lady Macbeth by herself. It’s definitely not an understatement to say that this movie comes as a complete surprise.
Most surprising about Lady Macbeth is its lead, Katherine. Florence Pugh is a relatively unknown actor, only known to a handful of people who’ve watched the Netflix series Marcella. In Lady Macbeth this isn’t noticeable at all as Pugh acts circles around everyone on screen and commands your attention for the 89 minute running time. It also adds to the experience that you don’t know who her character is in the story until the third act. This adds a certain depth to her character as she hides her evil intentions under the veil of being a victim. It’s not until well into the second act that we, the audience truly start to realize what type of person we stepped into a story with.
The movie does rely on Pugh quite heavily, as all of the other characters don’t really remain memorable. This is Pugh’s movie and she grabs it with two hands and doesn’t let go. Behind the camera William Oldroyd does a great job of showcasing the brooding and dark setting that surrounds Katherine. She feels trapped and this helps justify (in some ways) her actions later on. He also does a great job immersing the audience in the middle 1800’s as the production design was absolutely spot on. But he let the nature become a character in the movie and this adds authenticity to this film’s claim as a “period piece”.
Lady Macbeth does have its problems as it does find ways to drag, even with its short running time. Cosmo Jarvis, who plays Katherine’s love interest Sebastian is woefully miscast in my opinion. His scenes often make for awkward viewing and there could have been others who would have made the role more interesting to watch. But maybe that was the point, to make this Pugh’s movie and no one else’s. If so they did a fantastic job. If not? It’s still well worth your time with beautiful shots, sickening twists and without a doubt one of the best performances of the year. Add to this to the ever-growing list of great adaptations of Shakespeare’s epic.