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  • Anna Rosciszewski

Eileen Movie Review

“You really think you’re a normal person” is what our rather plain Jane protagonist, Eileen Dunlop, is told. However, Eileen is veritably not as simple as she appears to be on the outside nor as she believes herself to be, and a cunning psychologist with an insidious mind unfortunately recognizes this fact. I was not expecting Eileen to be so ominous and bizarre. Set in the 1960s Massachusetts, Eileen tells the story of an awkward and naive young woman named Eileen, played by Thomasin McKenzie, as she falls under the influence of the new and sinisterly charming psychologist at the youth detention facility in which she works. Eileen is director William Oldroyd’s sophomore film, with Lady Macbeth, adapted from Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel, being his first film. Eileen was adapted from Otessa Moshfegh’s 2015 novel by the same title. Despite the two books' differences in genre and era, I discovered that Oldroyd’s second film adaptation of a book certainly lived up to the chilling and unorthodox style of his filmmaking.


Eileen Dunlop is a mousy girl who lives with her alcoholic father, Jim Dunlop, whom she struggles to keep out of trouble with alcohol. From the beginning, it is clear that there is something deeply off putting about Eileen. She does not seem to do anything but perform her menial tasks as a secretary and watch others. To put it simply, Eileen is a freak. She hates her father and often has eerily realistic daydreams about killing him and herself, which occur when least expected and augment the film’s creepiness. In these earlier moments, the audience is unanticipatedly reminded of Eileen's psychological thriller genre and get an ominous look into Eileen’s violent psyche. Furthermore, Eileen is profoundly lonely and longs for the emotional and physical validation of someone as she is constantly made to feel invisible at home and at work. However, when Rebecca, a beautiful and intimidating psychologist, begins working at the detention facility, Eileen finally feels seen and quickly falls in love with her. The character of Rebecca Saint John, a Harvard trained psychologist played by Anne Hathaway, contrasts sharply with that of our protagonist. Rebecca, with her blonde hair and luminescent features, shines against the dreary and wintery backdrop of the small town and the weak presence of Eileen herself. Rebecca is manipulative and asks all of the right questions in order to disarm Eileen, who feels safe under the wing of a self-assured and poised woman. As the movie progresses, we see Eileen trying to mimic Rebecca’s sophisticated style, which parallels Rebecca’s growing influence over her. 


I will not spoil Eileen’s plot nor ending, but I will say: it gets pretty dark. Eileen, to prove her strength to Rebecca, uncovers her darkest motivations and, ultimately, goes too far. I found that the ending was the best part of the whole film because that is when things got unhinged and intense. However, it felt like the movie ended just when the plot was kicking off. I felt that there could have been more intrigue earlier on in the film. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the uncanny and enchanting cinematography of the film because it was not conventional and gave the film an admirably unsettling allure, which was further enhanced by its setting in the 60s. It was a turbulent film to watch as it was, at one second, a visual wonder, and at the next, uncomfortable to watch. Moreover, I found that McKenzie and Hathaway acted together beautifully, both flawlessly executing their distinctly complex characters and the troubled psychological game they play.

Overall, I would give this film four out of five stars and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, disquieting cinematography, and period pieces of this era, though I warn readers that this movie is certainly not for the light-hearted. 


Eileen was released by Neon and first shown in theaters on December 1st, 2023. It is rated R and runs for 97 minutes. 



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