July 22, 2024

EILEEN (2023) – A noir style character study with a twisted ending


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This is one unusual movie to watch. It appears to be some sort of arthouse movie with erotic undertones from the way the movie is promoted. But it also boosts of having the very un-arthouse Anne Hathaway in the cast. As the movie begins, it has arthouse written all over it. It has the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio which is rarely seen in movies today except in, well, arthouse movies. And the film is deliberately shot with a dark grainy look that compliments the era of the story which takes place in the 1960’s.

Eileen is a young girl who leads a dull life in a small town who works in a juvenile detention centre. As with all such characters they live in a broken family, in this case a perpetually drunk and abusive father. Her mundane existence takes a turn when a sophisticated and confident woman psychologist, Rebecca (played by Anne Hathaway) joins the prison team. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary tale of a young girl’s rite of passage from innocence to adulthood as our Eileen is hardly virtuous buried under her innocuous demeanor. Thomasin McKenzie excels in her portrayal of the complex personality of Eileen through her facial and body language. Her captivation by Rebecca’s unconventionality is perfectly captured by her reaction shots. No lengthy dialogue needed here! Equally Anne Hathaway uses her natural beauty and charm with deadly effect as the extroverted Rebecca and compliments the scenes with Eileen well.

It is through this magnetic relationship that was so quickly and easily developed that we sense a romantic lesbian undertone. But, the plot had other things in its mind as the rug was pulled from under our feet at the film’s final act. I have to admit that I did not expect this turn of event which immediately changed the tone of the film. I found this change strange and a bit distracting as we are still trying to process what to make of the Eileen character before being lead to another path. I have mixed feelings on this as it was both crazy and yet, clever in providing a sort of closure for Eileen.

Interestingly, the book in which this film was based on had a far more extreme and ugly portrayal of Eileen. Reviewers have compared the film’s version of Eileen as being far more sympathetic unlike how she was depicted in the original source where she is more of a monster! One thing that remains clear is that you will still be mesmerized by whichever version of Eileen you meet.

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