Movies centered around Christmastime typically exude warmth and happiness, but William Oldroyd’s “Eileen” (2023) might be the antithesis of a classic holiday film. If viewers care for the prior, then “Polar Express” (2004) or “Love Actually” (2003) might be a more suitable choice.
The film is based on the 2015 psychological fiction novel by bestselling author Ottessa Moshfegh. Readers and viewers experience the dreary life of Eileen Dunlop during her time as a juvenile detention center secretary and her alcoholic father’s caretaker. Having the story take place in gloomy Boston creates a literal and emotional fog over the deeply taut tensions between characters. The cinematography captures images of a classic white Christmas while also blending the conflicting hidden emotions that arise during the holidays. Mooredale Prison’s dull workday has a massive shift when mysterious psychologist Rebecca Saint John stirs up Eileen’s life. As Dunlop and Saint John grow their friendship, it leads to unexpected feelings of obsession, sensuality, and escapism.
Thomasin McKenzie, who plays Dunlop, does an immaculate job at letting viewers see the many sides of her young character: One is full of disgust, one is full of resentment, and one is full of longing. Anne Hathaway brilliantly plays Rebecca Saint John in the most hauntingly beautiful way. She makes viewers fall in love with her elegance, just like the other characters in the film have. As both characters seem to crack near the end of the film, they demonstrate the perfect amount of female rage that has risen in popularity in other forms of pop culture.
As the film progresses and Christmas Eve arrives, those who love the cult-classic novel will be surprised to find that one of the biggest plot twists was changed. Even with Moshfegh on the screenwriting team alongside Luke Goebel, the film adaptation did stray away from certain points, but that’s the name of the game for any book-to-screen. Although, even with these changes, the film stays close to the integral dark and grotesque humor Moshfegh is known for. If anything, these changes add a new layer of deviance to the characters and the repercussions their actions cause.
Ultimately, as the credits slowly roll, viewers are left to contemplate if what they saw demonstrated the complexities of trauma or was maybe simply gross. Personally, I favor the first.
Movie Times: click here for showtimes
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller
Director: William Oldroyd
Producer: Ottessa Moshfegh
Actors: Thomasin McKenzie, Anne Hathaway, Shea Whigham, Marin Ireland
Running Time: 97 minutes
Rating: Rated R for for violent content, sexual content and language