Adapted from the Nikolai Leskov novella, Lady Macbeth protagonist Katherine follows on from other nuanced heroines that adorn a privileged class period landscape, comparable to the likes of Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina in how we studiously linger over the suffocation of the female lead, restricted, bored, oppressed both socially and sexually – and this William Oldroyd offering is no less dark than the aforementioned classics.

Set in the 19th century, Florence Pugh plays the eponymous protagonist; a young bride who is sold into the marriage of the middle-aged Alexander (Paul Hilton), who expects very little of his new wife other than to stand naked before him, and avoid going outside and enjoying any semblance of freedom. Conversing with very few people other than the housemaid Anna (Naomi Ackie), and remaining mostly confined within these soulless walls of their grandiose abode, she finds herself longing for the affections of one of the groundsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), often frequenting the stables to see him, and having him secretly come into the house. With Alexander away for a short period this affair turns into infatuation, and it transpires this seemingly innocent young woman will stop at nothing to get what she desires.

Florence Pugh in Lady MacbethOften with films of this nature audiences can expect to put at least two hours aside, but this comes in at a little over 90 minutes, and while usually such news would be met with a sense of relief, in this instance, the modest runtime is not so much a luxury but a hinderance. There’s a distinct lack of back story here, and the tedious existence that Katherine lives is not one explored in enough detail, so that when she rebels we haven’t completely understood her anguish, to then comprehend her actions. We gather information, but had the film been more slow-burning and tedious in is execution, such immersion could allow for the viewer to embody the protagonist, which would be an effective touch. Regrettably though, this is emblematic of a film that feels somewhat underwritten, with no characters nor relationships feeling particularly fleshed out – such as Katherine and Sebastian, we need to get a sense for why they’re risking everything to be together and yet it feels too hurried.

Thankfully, the performance from Pugh allows for this to remain an absorbing endeavour, and she’s been gifted with a multi-faceted character to get her teeth into, so nuanced and intriguing. To draw comparisons to one of Shakespeare’s most noteworthy female creations seems fitting too, except Katherine doesn’t just have blood of her hands, it’s in her hair, under her fingernails, and in her very soul.

Lady Macbeth is released on April 28th