FILMS: Cineworld Broad Street offering treats as Eileen enters Hitchcock territory

Eileen (15, 98 mins). There are nods to Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith in Anne Hathaway’s new movie Eileen, the story of a seemingly mousy girl ready to emerge from her own social life-limiting cocoon.

And, if you see it at the 12-screen Cineworld Broad Street multiplex, you might get to enjoy a treat on the house at the same time – visit the website on the day to see what the cinema’s brand new online advent calendar is offering. When I clicked on the Monday 4 December one, it offered me free popcorn!

The action in Eileen is set in the 1960s, more small town sepia-tinged film noir than hallucinogenic Chelsea colours. 

Dull is the word, but intriguingly so given that Eileen Dunlop (Thomasin McKenzie) works at a detention centre and appears to have some dark daydreams / fantasies going on in her mind right from the off. 

She is trapped at home, too, living with a widowed, alcoholic, ex-cop father (Shea Wigman) who seems to be in a curious world of his own in ‘angry’ Massachusetts.

When Hathaway arrives to add splashes of colour (bright red car, Marilyn Monroe platinum blonde hair etc) and it turns out she’s a psychiatrist called Dr Rebecca St John, you can imagine her invitation to Eileen for drinks could create a heady brew.

The younger girl, full of admiration for Rebecca’s spirit, seems ready to emerge from her wallflower straitjacket. But who’s toying with who?

The verdict

Eileen has a festive element but is not a typical ‘Christmas’ movie – there are plenty of other classics showing at Cineworld Broad Street and Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza between now and the big day as Westside showed last week.

But it’s a slow burn, sometimes violent drama about obsession directed by William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth), with Kiwi actress McKenzie (still only 23) giving a classy performance as the kind of character that Rebecca thinks she is.

The story has been co-adapted from her own debut, Booker-shortlisted novel by Ottessa Moshfegh working with husband Luke Goebel.

Jojo Rabbit (2019) star McKenzie had a not dissimilar role in Edgar Wright’s own psychological horror film Last Night in Soho (2021) and she leaves you wanting more.

A former young actress herself, Hathaway might have been offered more screen time to give her own fans extra goodness, but it’s great to see a non-Marvel film going down this route given that Hitchcock himself was given his first break by Birmingham-born producer and fellow future knight, Sir Michael Balcon.

Just like the recent Australian backpacking adventure The Royal Hotel, which also had two female leads, Eileen’s ending will divide opinions. But that’s always better than leaving everyone feeling indifferent.

Verdict: ***

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