Review by Lauryn Angel
Set during the Civil War, Sophia Coppola’s The Beguiled is the story of a group of women and young girls who have isolated themselves at an old Virginia home serving as Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies. Headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) and one of the teachers, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), do their best to continue the education of their remaining charges, even as cannons and gunfire thunder in the distance. One day, young Miss Amy (Oona Laurence) ventures into the woods to collect mushrooms and stumbles upon a wounded Union soldier under a tree. The soldier is Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), and Irishman who manages to convince Miss Amy to save him from the Confederate army by taking him back to the school. Miss Farnsworth decides to take him in, insisting that healing him is the Christian thing to do.
It’s unclear whether Farnsworth is a prisoner or a guest, as all of the women and girls in the house make him their singular focus. The students start wearing their best dresses and purloined jewelry in order to Impress McBurney, who in turn does his best to charm his captors. Underneath the charm, however, is a subtle menace. It’s clear that McBurney is up to something, even if we’re not sure what.
The Beguiled is adequately named, as the film is enchanting, but it has a sinister edge to it. As the tensions between the women build, it’s clear that something bad is going to happen. And when it does, while it’s not entirely shocking, it’s satisfying.