Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2016 novel is a totally absorbing descent into the mist – of 1860s Eire, of mysticism, of non secular fervour. Put apart the distracting framing system, two present-tense bookends assumedly meant to underscore our capacity to droop disbelief that find yourself undercutting this eerie, exceptional interval movie.
The vibe is off, the temper unsettling, from the second we meet Florence Pugh’s Lib, an English nurse despatched to a distant Irish village to watch (or, as many townspeople hope, to verify) a reported miracle: 11-year-old Anna (a formidable Kíla Lord Cassidy) who has refused to eat for 4 months and but stays curiously wholesome. Lelio’s movie approaches Anna’s anorexia mirabilis as a slow-burn thriller, as Lib grows keen on the woman and ever extra annoyed with the inaction of these round her, folks keen to just accept sacrifice to protect their most well-liked model of the story. It’s a thriller of truth versus religion that doesn’t choose the latter.
It additionally reaffirms religion in Pugh as a performer, in a thorny interval position that remembers her breakout in Lady Macbeth. Pugh has but to show in a lower than strong efficiency, notably as a lady bristling at expectations, and she or he is totally convincing right here. Her Lib is fiery and steadfast, rational and vulnerable as anybody to flights of determined creativeness. Pugh is sort of terrifyingly self-possessed as a performer; as Lib’s frustration along with her task and desperation to save lots of Anna escalate, I discovered myself clenching my tooth, transfixed.
What may simply have turn out to be melodrama or an inexpensive trauma plot as an alternative feels, in Lelio’s arms, unusual and exquisite, shot by way of with the pure ruggedness of rural Ireland. The Marvel is an uncommon journey, Lelio’s sharp route by no means permitting what could possibly be foreseeable revelations to tip into predictability. Nevertheless it’s Pugh who’s the surprise right here. Even with the framing system – sure, it is a story – you’ll be able to’t assist however consider her.