It is 1864 and an injured Union solder John (Farrell) is discovered by 12 year old Amy (Laurence) deep into confederate territory. Unwilling to leave him in the woods to die, Amy takes him back to the small boarding school for young ladies where she is one of only 5 girls who remain. The school’s only other inhabitants are headmistress Miss Martha (Kidman) and teacher Edwina (Dunst).
When Amy and John reach the school grounds and all the women surround the soldier while Miss Martha and Edwina argue over how best to proceed, it takes just a few moments to establish that a handsome soldier among a group of genteel, repressed Southern women has sexual tensions already sky rocketing.
Oh my! *clutches pearls*
Nope. No good can come of this situation. No good at all.
The decision is made to nurse the soldier back to health and only then, turn him over to the Confederate forces. During his recuperation, each of the women interact in some way with the soldier, some openly and some more furtively. As he charms his way into the affections of some, the women begin to turn on each other and as the mood heightens, we start to see what was hinted at in the first scenes at the boarding house.
Edwina is a 30 something, school ma’am spinster and you just know she dreams of being wooed by a handsome man and whisked away for a life of love and gentle happiness. She is kind, sweet and innocent.
Alicia (Fanning), on the other hand, is maybe 17 years old and keen to test her sexual powers over this stranger. She simply bristles with sexual energy and seems fully aware of the effect she can exert. For all her youth, she is the complete opposite of Edwina.
When John gets himself caught between these two women, the results will have devastating consequences for everyone.
This movie perfectly captures the tensions that simmer just beneath the surface for any person who is repressed by the society they live in. For all its gorgeous cinematography and soft lens focus, demure, white dresses and ladylike, gentle pursuits this all just masks a world of passions and jealousy.
The final act, while not unexpected, still packs quite a punch. While it was not everything I had hoped it would be if you love Coppola’s female protagonists, you will love this movie.
3 ½ stars
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Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Colin Farrell, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard
Running Time: 93 minutes
Release Date: In Cinemas Now
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