Florence Pugh’s killer performance powers Lady Macbeth

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Lady Macbeth
Opens Aug. 11

Roxy Theatre
3.5 out of 5

Lady Macbeth is one of those films that place its audience in an ethical quandary: do we keep siding with the protagonist even as her actions become questionable?

The compromised lead in question is Katherine (a star-making turn by Florence Pugh), a teenager sold into marriage to a landowner. Her older, sexually confused husband has little interest in her, outside of keeping her confined in their country home.

Bored, captive people tend to act out, and merely days after her husband leaves for business, Katherine takes a lover. Discretion quickly goes out the window and her torrid affair with a farmhand becomes common knowledge. Katherine’s behaviour forces her father-in-law and her husband to return home and… let’s just say she won’t surrender her freedom easily.

One can certainly understand Katherine’s position (her agency is initially very limited), but the one who gets us squarely on her side is Florence Pugh. The newcomer is a gifted actor with a twinkle in her eye — a cheekiness that sticks with you.

Lady Macbeth isn’t a traditional, sentimental period piece. It’s intense, unfolds at brisk pace and oozes character complexity. Katherine has a mirror image in Anna (Naomi Ackie), the maid. At no point does Anna question her position as ‘the help’ or stand up for herself.

The counterpoint makes you wonder if there’s value in obedience, or if religion exists solely to keep the powerless in check. ❧