Miss Julie, film review

(12A) Liv Ullmann, 130 mins Starring: Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain, Samantha Morton
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The Independent Culture

Liv Ullmann's adaptation of August Strindberg's play might best be billed as a midsummer night's sex tragedy. It is on the overwrought side. The action has been moved from Sweden to Ireland, 1890. Much of the film is set in the kitchen of the country house where Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) and her servant lover John (Colin Farrell) tantalise and torment one another. In its often vicious depiction of the relationship between the aristocrat and her father's valet, the film overlaps with Ullmann's last directorial effort, Faithless, scripted by Ingmar Bergman and similarly unforgiving in its depiction of the attrition between the sexes. Ullmann brings out the snobbery, class resentment and misogyny in the story, as well as its tenderness and strange mix of love, lust and rancour. The leads throw themselves into it with ferocious conviction. The problem is a suffocating sense of claustrophobia. A prelude features Miss Julie as a child, and one or two scenes are set outside the kitchen. But for most of the film, the lovers are stuck with one another and we are stuck with them, desperate to come up for air. µ

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