Film review Shirley (15)

A still from the film Shirley

A still from the film Shirley - Credit: Archant

Elisabeth Moss plays the agoraphobic depressive author of The House On Haunted Hill who develops a twisted relationship with a young couple come to stay

There is no need for another story about ghastly academic types and surely Shirley Jackson (Moss), the celebrated author of The House On Haunted Hill, and her English professor husband (Stuhlbarg) are the most ghastly academic types imaginable.

He is a self-satisfied philanderer professor; she an acid-tongued depressive who won’t leave the house. This agoraphobic agrophile is spoiling for a fight with anyone unwise enough to venture into her home. When a young couple arrive to stay, flushed with the expectation that this is a great opportunity for him (Lerman), she (Young) is initially the main target of Shirley’s venom. But from there the relationship becomes more complicated and twisted.

This is not a biopic but rather an adaptation of a novel, set in the summer after the New Yorker has published Jackson’s celebrated short story The Lottery.

Decker has made a spiky, eerie film that looks good and has strong performances. A film about someone who goes batty after spending all their time at home may capture the mood right now, but Shirley’s surely just a little bit too shut-in.


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Directed by Josephine Decker. Starring Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman. In cinemas and on digital. Running time: 107 mins.

2/5 stars

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