Sofia Coppola’s dramatic story consists of strong performances for a thrilling narrative of innocence and jealousy.
Nearing the end of the American Civil War, Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) leads a girl’s school in Virginia. Almost all of the teachers, students and slaves have left and only one teacher, Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst) and five students (Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Oona Laurence, Emma Howard, Addison Riecke) remain. One of the students, Amy, is out picking mushrooms when she comes across a corporal in the Union Army by the name of John McBurney (Colin Farrell) being badly injured he is helped by Amy back to the school where he is grudgingly taken care for, however his presence disrupts the work of the girls, as sexual tension begins to emerge so does jealousy.
Right from the first shot of the film we see Amy walking through the gloomy and murky woods, the path stretches as far as the eye can see, we constantly have this throughout the film giving a sense of isolation to the house and the people in it. As the corporal is brought back to the house we gather a sense of uneasiness, the girls become interested in the new arrival as if they have never seen a man before. They constantly sneak in to ask the corporal questions, to help him and to learn about him, meanwhile the corporal understands the situation he is in, he is sweet and flirts with them in the attempt that they do not give him up to the confederate army. In doing so this creates a subtle tension between the girls.
The sexual tension is strong yet delicate, the first half builds upon Martha, Edwina and Alicia’s wants and so it is with the older girls we see the transformation, Alicia is bored and sees the corporal as an opportunity to seek something new meanwhile Edwina is captured by the corporal’s looks and sweetness and want to escape and while Martha is the most mature and responsible we can see what she really wants but has to hold back to ensure she keeps the girls in order.
Throughout, the girls dress up in all white clothing covering their skin from shoulder to toe showcasing their purity, apart from when they have dinner with the corporal; they wear fancy dresses baring their shoulders and wear jewelry trying to be noticed by the man. The cinematography is hauntingly beautiful; the sunlight softly weighs in on the house and the girls, we frequently see the surrounding of the house at night with only the misty woods neighboring, by day we are secluded from the battle, we see the smoke only from far away.
The isolation and restlessness makes for a horror film, although not one, we are on edge throughout, there is horror to the characters. The film gradually builds for an explosive final act, we are left questioning the innocence of all the girls, on the outside they appear one way: pure, helpful, beautiful and cleanliness but on the inside, it is another story.
Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is a fantastic drama that brings together numerous incredible performances, beautiful cinematography and a gripping story guaranteed to keep you enthralled.