William Oldroyd is a relatively fresh face in the realm of cinema. His first big break was his short film Best, having won the Sundance London short film competition in 2013. That was swiftly followed by the full-length feature Lady Macbeth, premiered at Sundance as well as the Toronto Film Festival back in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Oldroyd, despite being a newcomer to the industry, had swept the floor with his second full-length feature Eileen, which was just released on December 1st.
The film is a book-to-screen adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel of the same title. The book was met with praise upon its publication in 2015 under Penguin Press and received the PEN award. This was alongside other short-listings that had lauded the work for its Alfred Hitchcock like approach in style and form. In Oldroyd’s movie adaptation, he is able to capture this essence of being unsettling and eerie as the film utilizes the thriller genre in ways that are magnetically stirring.
The film follows the main protagonist Eileen Dunlop (played by Thomasin Mckenzie), a 24-year-old who works as a secretary at a male juvenile correctional facility in a mysterious town in Massachusetts. She gets to know Rebecca Saint John (played by Anne Hathaway), a Harvard derived psychologist who enters the staff of Eileen’s workplace. From the very start of their first encounter, Eileen finds herself to be completely fascinated and transfixed by Rebecca’s presence, in which later on, they grow and develop a fondness for each other.
Image via KQED
The foundation of their relationship ends up centering itself around the puzzling case of one of the inmates at the prison, Lee Polk (played by Sam Nivola), who both Eileen and Rebecca are convinced had killed his father in much more profound circumstances than what had been formerly established. Alongside this conflict, Eileen also confronts internal battles with her father Jim (played by Shea Whigham) who struggles with an addiction to alcohol as a result of her mother’s death, and his failed career as a policeman. Early on, the unstable, flimsy dynamic that poses itself between Eileen and her father is conveyed on screen, which later on, leads Eileen to using him as a last resort.
Throughout the film, it contains imaginary shots of Eileen utilizing a gun to her own content. Within these sequences, we eventually land upon scenarios in which she ends up actually pulling the trigger, under heightened conditions. Rebecca involves her into a messy situation with Lee Polk’s mother (played by Marin Ireland), one that she had no choice in but to handle and manage herself.
The main premise of the plot finds itself to revolve around Eileen’s want of running away to New York with Rebecca, in which she feels she needs to go through these measures in order to be able to do this. What is most engaging in this film is the unnerving, though enigmatic bond that forms between Eileen and Rebecca, to the degree that both start to mesh and meld into becoming the other.
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