This week’s pick is based on the classic novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. Yet another unread book that lives on my shelf. Maybe I’ll make time for it now because I feel it will probably pad out a lot of the characterisation.
Still, this is the perfect kind of movie to enjoy under a blanket on a Sunday afternoon with lashings of tea and buttery toast.
Merricat, Constance and their Uncle Julian live in isolation after experiencing a family tragedy six years earlier. When cousin Charles arrives to steal the family fortune, he also threatens a dark secret they’ve been hiding.
Merricat and Constance Blackwood live on the family estate with their ailing uncle Julian (Glover). Constance (Daddario) has been a shut-in for the last six years after being tried and acquitted of her parents’ murders. Merricat (Farmiga) walks down into the village only on Tuesdays to get the groceries and has to put up with all the abuse leveled at the Blackwood family by the locals.
Constance does have one friend outside the family, a girl called Helen who is trying to persuade her to return to society. Merricat is terrified of this happening and uses magic protection spells around the grounds to keep her sister safe. When she feels her sister bending to Helen’s will, she doubles down on the witchery. Good girl.
MC is must be said is 18 but much more childlike than her years. She’s intrigued by plant life and never smiles while her sister is practically a Stepford, baking pies in pretty dresses.
Things are thrown off kilter one Thursday when Merricat is sent into the village unexpectedly. She’s flustered at the break in routine, has no time to prepare her magic and on her return finds her protective articles have been unearthed. Worse, their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) has come to stay.
Charles has his eye on Constance but more so the family fortune. So begins his charm offensive as he woos our lovely Constance, who is flattered by his attention and quickly falls for his promise of a happy life together.
Merricat fucking hates him though and refuses to speak to him properly. Behind the scenes Charles is a dick to Uncle Julian and tries to get MC is trouble for all the eccentric little things she does (such as burying expensive heirlooms in the garden). In retaliation, she messes with his shit and tells him to leave.
This cat and mouse game has to come to a head eventually and does when the pair have an almighty row at the dinner table. Charles drags Merricat from the room and up the stairs, threatening to beat her arse while “Connie” stands by and does nothing.
She’s saved by the accidental fire she’s set in Charles’ room though. In the ensuing kerfuffle, Julian dies of smoke inhalation and the house is ransacked by the villagers eager to watch it burn. The girls’ are about to be seriously attacked when they are rescued by Helen’s husband. For their own personal safety they spend the night together in the woods, only returning to the house in the morning.
As they survey the damage, dastardly Charles returns still keen on whisking Constance away. Will she go? Furthermore, what will become of the sisters and honestly, why is
Meercat Merricat so protective and clingy towards big sis?
It seems there may be secrets in their past…
I liked this story well enough. The movie looks great and I really appreciate the reveal at the end. It’s a bittersweet ending perhaps, in that the sisters can only really be free together in their crumbling home but it’s also feminist af.
Fuck you, Charles and your beautiful body and promises of trips to Europe, you could never sever sisterly ties. Maybe it’s not healthy but, oh well.
I drifted off a couple of times watching this but I loved Merricat’s personal brand of weirdness.
I don’t know how faithfully it sticks to the novel but I suspect probably quite well. Although this might not change my life, I am always going to be here for spooky old houses and dark family secrets.