Eileen – Fantastic Fest Review

September 24, 202360/1005 min
Starring
Thomas McKenzie, Shea Whigham, Anne Hathaway
Written by
Luke Goebel and Ottessa Moshfegh
Directed by
William Oldroyd
Run Time
1h37min
Release Date
December 8th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

       Anne Hathaway, I feel, is one of our most under-appreciated actors who consistently delivers in everything she does. For me, any movie with her instantly becomes better, needing little more than her presence to pique my interest. So when I learned that she was in Eileen alongside the equally incredible Thomasin McKenzie, there was no way I could stay away. And it quickly became a must-see at this year’s Fantastic Fest.

Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie) lives a rather modest life, which includes a job at a local prison. Her father, Jim (Shea Whigham), is a retired police chief, but nowadays, he spends most of his days drunk and randomly firing his gun on his street. Eileen’s routine consists of going to work and then stopping by to pick up alcohol for her father. However, her life is about to find a spark, which she discovers in the new prison’s psychiatrist, Rebecca (Anne Hathaway), who brings a certain zest that immediately captures Eileen’s attention. Watching two actors who demand your attention on screen is a powerful experience, and neither Hathaway nor McKenzie disappoint. Both women play off each other beautifully, and while Rebecca seems to have it all together, both she and Eileen are equally sad and lost. As the two form a connection, Eileen starts to break out of her routine, taking chances as Rebecca appears to awaken something inside her. These chances eventually lead to a decision that will impact both of their lives, and once again, Eileen does something unexpected.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ottessa Moshfegh, she and co-writer Luke Goebel do a commendable job of leading you down the wrong path, as the film takes an unexpected turn in its second half. Prior to that twist, Eileen shares many similarities with another film named after a woman, Carol. These similarities extend beyond the story to include two top-notch performances by actors at the peak of their abilities. Eileen also doesn’t skimp on tension; it maintains it throughout the movie, keeping you on edge about what might happen next. When you add in the direction by William Oldroyd, who employs soft lighting and a dense atmosphere that exudes a semi-nourish beauty, this is almost the whole package.

Eileen leaves a lasting impression, making you empathize with Eileen and root for her to achieve her goals, even when there’s something about her that repels you at times. Additionally, the film offers a coming-of-age story, where Eileen learns that anyone can be more than they appear. Ultimately, it provides a cinematic treat because, regardless of the signs you think you see, Eileen is going to take you to places you never expected to go.

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