Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Eileen ★★★



Director: William Oldroyd

Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anne Hathaway, Shea Whigham

Released: Sundance Film Festival 2023

Thomasin McKenzie dazzles onscreen as the eponymous, impressionable Eileen in a snowy film noir-esque tale that blends Carol, Nightmare Alley and Hitchcock’s stories. Eileen is a 1960s tale of friendship between the socially awkward Eileen and a new psychologist Rebecca, played by an alluring Anne Hathaway, who arrives in the town. The film’s simple premise has added psychological thriller dynamics, similar to a Patricia Highsmith novel, as the women work within the sterile environment of a prison, thus leading to mystery and intrigue. However, within the third act, the film ratchets up the tension, having played a slow cat-and-mouse game with its audience beforehand.

Eileen is a slow-burn thriller; there are glimpses into Eileen’s background as she lives at home with her emotionally draining father. Terse conversations unveil the toxicity of such a relationship but equally paint the picture of a long-suffering daughter wishing for that moment of freedom. Eileen’s depicted as slightly maladroit, not least from the put-downs from her father, but she is consistently seen falling over and stumbling regularly. Eileen also appears to seek an outlet for her intellectual and sexual curiosity. Director William Oldroyd carefully depicts a watery world for Eileen with scenes of her reveries and close-ups to frame her emotional frustration.

Thomasin, however, revels in bringing enthusiasm to Eileen’s mundane surroundings. Her curiosity leads her to become a voyeur; she witnesses young, amorous lovers in a parked car on a snowy road and uses snow when her desire is piqued. A curious blend of pity and bewilderment can be levelled towards Eileen, who seems naive at best but harbours a morbid fascination with a prisoner held in custody for a serious crime. Thomasin’s reactions are superb to observe as she flits between romantic fantasies to be unassuming. The sombre colour scheme surrounding her cleverly emphasises Eileen’s bland environment.

Given the austere prison setting, there is a surprising amount of humour to be found in the film. Eileen’s workmates provide interesting quips; Eileen, unwittingly, seems to be a source of this humour too. This humour is juxtaposed with the snowy Boston setting, which creates a moody mysticism of the environment combined with a sensation of dread. The camera angles are reminiscent of police thrillers setting up the tone and that unsettling film noir sensation. The engulfing fog adds to the film’s atmospheric mood, with the weather becoming a character in its own right.

The film’s tone shifts with the arrival of Rebecca, who captivates with a sensual turn by Hathaway and performs with verve. Oldroyd’s vision frames her as the femme fatale type with blonde hair, cigarette smoking, a rebellious streak and an outspoken attitude. The chemistry between Rebecca and Eileen, with a notable dancing scene in a bar, provides that spark to a film smouldering without direction. The slow pace adopted for most of the film’s runtime provides limitations, as it is based on a book of the same name by Ottessa Moshfeghs. Rebecca adds that sense of adventure that Eileen’s life craves; she starts to emulate Rebecca and is led astray, and the film itself is lacking during the first two-thirds.

Whilst the film encapsulates an overall sombre mood inspired by the 1960s, there is no escaping the feeling that the friendship between the two women does not convince and seems superficial. Still, Hathaway cannot save the script from limping toward the finish line. Additionally, Eileen only gathers momentum within its final 15 minutes, which is unfortunate, as there are some stunning cinematic shots and superb performances. Ultimately, Eileen will be the ideal film to watch indoors on a wintry day with a warm drink, as it, too, takes a while to warm up.

Just For You