Last night I saw Lady Macbeth, starring Florence Pugh and Cosmo Jarvis.
Katherine (Pugh) is sold into a loveless marriage with an abusive, sexually challenged husband. His father who lives with them is also horrible, and coupled with the unhappy help, this all makes for a pretty miserable home.
Based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, which was inspired by the famous Shakespeare work, this re-telling softens nothing. The audience feels every lashing that Katherine's dark-skinned lover Sebastian (Jarvis) gets and absorbs the emanating hatred Katherine has for the family she married into. In fact, the only one seemingly immune from all this brutality is a thin, sherbet-colored cat that pops up almost humorously, scene after scene, observing the chaos with typical curiosity.
But don't be fooled; there's not much comedy here. After her father-in-law allegedly sends her husband away, Katherine becomes obsessed with Sebastian, who works on the property. They don't do much to conceal their lovemaking and word travels fast. When her father-in-law confronts her with this news, the results are tragic—but Katherine is the one with the upper hand.
She's a force to be reckoned with, and anyone or anything that gets in her way from that point forward is put in clear and imminent danger.
The transformation of this character is a credit to the genius work of newcomer Pugh. Her ability to show the audience what simmers beneath the surface, yet behave as she's expected for the other characters is fascinating to watch. She's the star, after all, but I have a feeling I wouldn't have taken my eyes off of her even if she wasn't.
Lady Macbeth is a sexy, frightening, vivid interpretation of a life lived out of desperation. If you don't mind frequent violence (and a lot of nudity), give it a shot.