Dir: William Oldroyd, with Florence Pugh and Naomi Ackie
The setting is somewhere on the Catherine Cookson/Wuthering Heights axis and the plot requires indulgence, but I didn’t care because it was so well filmed and directed. Katherine opens the film as a vulnerable bride all in white and ends it as a monster in black. Our sympathies are initially with her: married off to an ineffectual man, under the command of her brutal father-in-law, forbidden to go out of doors and confined to stays, crinolines and interiors. Doors play their own role. An indifference to suffering or deliberate unkindness is the norm: we see the discomfort of being laced into stays or having your waist-length hair combed in the days before conditioner. The only moment of pure feeling is when Katherine holds the little boy’s hand for a moment after she has recalled outdoor walks with her mother. (The sex is vigorous, but obsessive rather than loving.)
It was interesting how “victimhood” shifted as the film progressed. Initially it led the viewer to sympathise with the oppression of women in general, but as Katherine became more daring and powerful you focussed more on Anna, who bore the double cross of female and servant.
The (part) colour-blind casting was interesting. I’m used to it in the theatre, but film and television tends to be “more realistic”. (Huh! Try casting an actor with rickets and bad teeth for your costume dramas then.) It suggested other currents in relationships and power.