VOD film review: Miss Julie
Ivan Radford | On 04, Sep 2015Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Liv Ullmann
Cast: Colin Farrell, Jessica Chastain
Watch Miss Julie online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes
Colin Farrell and Jessica Chastain. Together. In a room. For two hours. Doing naughty things. That alone is enough to turn anyone’s heads, but Miss Julie never quite manages to arouse your full interest.
Written and directed by Liv Ullman, the film is based on August Strindberg’s play, which rubs class and sex together in an attempt to generate some socially insightful steam. Farrell plays Jean, the servant of Chastain’s Julie, who spends her days toying with the butler, asking him to kiss her shoes and pour her drinks. Jean, we see quickly, may be below his employer, but isn’t above dreaming big: he carries around a travel brochure and – at least on some level – is genuinely in love with the posh young Madame.
Chastain, meanwhile, is magnificent as the ruined, spoilt girl, haughty one minute and hysterical the next; she has feelings for the man beneath her too, but her desire is mixed with disdain. Together, they make for a fiery couple, attracted and repulsed to each other in an endless game of power. One teases, the other is seduced. One humiliates, the other backs away.
Ullmann shoots their encounter with a flowing camera that allows for carefully choreographed movements to echo the ever-shifting control – conversations swish from sexy to sad in the sultry blink of an eye, capturing the claustrophobia of the hot Midsummer’s Eve.
The only problem is that this cycle goes on for over 120 minutes; even the most erotic dance can become repetitive. The slight waste of Samantha Morton in the role of Jean’s overlooked partner – the cook and almost-wife to a thieved lover – only adds to the increasingly stale feeling of the affair, which goes in and out of the same holes over and over again. In a theatre, such intensity can be electrifying – especially with an internal halfway through – but on screen, the sparks may fly, but never quite ignite.