Lady Macbeth

This shocking period drama, the feature-filmmaking debut of British theater director William Oldroyd, reminded me of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave in the way it lays bare the repressive attitudes of the 19th century (and, by extension, their vestiges today). Adapted from Nikolai Leskov’s Russian novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, it tells of a young bride (Florence Pugh), sold into marriage, who responds to her tyrannical husband’s abuse and neglect by taking a stable hand (Cosmo Jarvis) as her lover; watching all this transpire is her even-more-abused black maid (Naomi Ackie), whom she defends or victimizes according to her own needs. The endless scenes of women being barked at, beaten, and dehumanized make this an unlikely date movie, but they lay the ground for a mighty revenge that earns the heroine her Shakespearean nickname.