Lady Macbeth is one of those films where I just feel like I must not be seeing something which everyone else seems to be seeing in it. Oldroyd does a lot well in his directorial debut but ultimately the whole exercise felt rather pointless and empty. The film touches briefly, and in a way typical of a male director*, on the hardships of life for a woman of the time, although using the same tropes seen in countless other films including Pirates of the Caribbean such the painful corset tightening scene. Beyond scenes like this and some scenes of Katherine’s husband and father in law mistreating her, Oldroyd seems disinterested in exploring mush else of note instead focusing on the plot of sex and murder. This isn’t to say that all films or even this film should be stuffed with themes and explorations of topics but when a film takes itself so seriously and has such a languid pace its nice to have a little more to retain interest.
The plot focuses on the relationship between Katherine, the lady of the house and Sebastian one of the men who works the land. This is a case of a relationship with literally no substance beyond sex, which does fit Katherine’s character but doesn’t make for an engaging way to use the majority of the screen time. The characters are so unlikable and, particularly in Sebastian’s case, lacking in depth, that it’s difficult to see why you should care, especially when they continuously make stupid decisions and act so brazenly that it’s hard to believe they belong to the film’s period. The cast do a good job and Florence Pugh is a commanding presence on screen although her characterization feels a little school play still particularly in regards to the accent and modern feeling mannerisms. Regardless, she stays truthful throughout and acts well, especially considering that she was only 19 in this. Its also nice to see such an out and out unlikable female character with no redeeming qualities, its just a shame she’s not a more interesting character.
The film is quite nicely shot with soft, natural looking light and some strong colours, especially in Katherine’s outfits, however there are a lot of scenes where the camera is shaking despite being stationary for seemingly no other reason than maybe they forgot to buy a tripod. I’m not sure how much of an issue this is for others, I’m sure most people don’t mind, I just personally hate shaky cam unless justified and done well, in this case it really just seems like laziness. The framing is pretty and engaging but nothing revolutionary as it sticks religiously to the rule of thirds and central framing.
This actually ended up taking a lot longer than I thought it would because, for one thing its been about 2 weeks since I watched it and I found it quite hard to put into words what I disliked about it. That said, I don’t regret watching it, its not a bad film, just not a particularly noteworthy one.