Anne Hathaway’s new sapphic thriller has got Carol written all over it

Anne Hathaway as Rebecca (L) and Thomasin McKenzie as Eileen (R). (Sundance Institute)

Anne Hathaway’s highly anticipated new thriller Eileen has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival – and the sapphic energy makes a period piece to watch.

Based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2015 Man Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, the film follows prison guard Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie), who works at a juvenile correctional facility for young boys in Massachusetts in the 1960s, and also cares for her abusive, alcoholic father.

Eileen’s life takes a turn after she meets the prison’s beautiful and beguiling new psychologist, Dr Rebecca Saint John (Hathaway), who is brought in to introduce modern reform. Before long, the pair form an unlikely but intense connection – but Eileen’s affection for Rebecca eventually pulls her into a crime beyond the realm of her imagination.

Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty)
Anne Hathaway and Thomasin McKenzie at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty)

In an interview with Deadline, the Devil Wears Prada star opened up about approaching the role.

“I found the script challenging the first time I read it,” she explained. “I found it really dark and really funny but it’s a tricky one. It’s so smart. It’s actually unusually smart, so it took me a few reads to feel like I had the beginnings of a handle on it.”

The Oscar winner has also described her new Sundance film as “Carol meets Reservoir Dogs”.

You may like to watch

“I [remember] just throwing everything at it and it feeling very risky,” she told Vanity Fair.

“It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever been in. Even if I wasn’t in it, it’d be one of my favorite things I’ve seen in ages.”

What are reviews saying about Eileen?

Fans of Cate Blanchett’s award-winning lesbian drama Carol will be thrilled to hear they may have found a new film to feed their love.

Much like the 2015 period piece, Eileen delves into the complex and obsessive spark between two women which is often erotically charged.

If first reviews are anything to go by though, Eileen looks to take a much darker turn; although we can expect that the connection between the two main characters will enthrall the LGBTQ+ community.

Several outlets have drawn parallels between the two films, with Variety noting: “[Director William] Oldroyd replaces the velvety warmth of [Carol] with a shabby, tawdry, chilly edge.”

The publication added that Eileen is “classy, clever filmmaking, curiously exhilarating and addictive.”

Screen Daily agreed: “The heat [McKenzie] and Hathaway generate between one another is so strong that it’s a wonder Rebecca’s martini doesn’t start to steam, as a dance scene evokes the kind of sapphic desire of Todd Haynes’ Carol.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian described Hathaway’s performance as “ferociously alluring” and “her finest in years”.

They also noted how McKenzie steals the film by delivering a “devastatingly difficult monologue with a punch”.

Some critics, however, have pointed out that the story can at times fall flat. The Guardian wrote that they craved “a little bit more oddity”, while Vanity Fair noted: “The movie is a provocative tease that doesn’t have the stuff to back up the joke, try as its game performers might to make it all mean something.”

Although there is no release date yet for Eileen, the film is expected to hit cinemas in 2023.