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Sundance 2023 Review: Eileen – “Creates a haunting atmosphere that hangs in the air like the forest mist.”

The dreary life of the sexually oppressed Eileen is given a ray of hope with the arrival of new prison psychologist Rebecca.

Fantasies of sexual acts and killing her alcoholic and abusive father are the only escape for Eileen as her temporary job at the prison is starting to look like a lifetime career; the repression is finally given a release with the arrival of a new female psychologist who is as brash and sultry as she is quiet and plainly attired.  A bond is forged between the two women with a particular murder case becoming a subject of mutual interest.

Thomasin McKenzie does a believable job of portraying a doe-eyed daughter of a drunken and gun-wielding retired police chief who is looking for the opportunity to go from a meek flower to a fully bloomed rose bush.  She quietly goes about her business and in the process of doing so is able to convey an emotional limbo between sadness and hopefulness.  Anne Hathaway has the easier role as the wolfish and vibrant femme fatale with a blatant disregard for following protocols.

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Filmmaker William Oldroyd does his best with a limited budget by making the story personal rather than epic in nature.  There are the inevitable comparisons with the movie Carol while that has the two leads consummating their relationship between the motel sheets, this one takes on a Hitchcockian twist that once you get past a certain implausible factor revolving around Eileen growing up in the area adds to the narrative.   Songs are cleverly integrated into the soundtrack and Oldroyd is successfully able to create a haunting atmosphere that hangs in the air like the forest mist.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more information visit sundance.org.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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