Is there any way this actress can go wrong?
‘Lady MacBeth’ (2017) is on BBC2 today at 11.20pm. Make sure you catch it - it’s my TV Movie of the Week and I reviewed it earlier this week. It’s not a Shakespeare adaptation, but certainly has Shakespearean levels of sex, politics and intrigue and a barnstorming central performance from Florence Pugh - her career masterpiece.
Ever since seeing her opposite ‘Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams in Carol Morley’s ‘The Falling’ (2015), I’ve always thought the 25 year old actress was a worthy successor to Kate Winslet for the title of Britain’s best twentysomething actress. The similarities are rife not just in her similar looks or queenly elegance, but even in her choice of roles.
19 year old Florence’s breakthrough was in ‘The Falling’ - a low-budget swooner about a fainting epidemic in a girl’s boarding school and a disturbingly close relationship between two girls (Williams and Pugh). Let’s remember that Winslet started out in her first role at the same age in Peter Jackson’s ‘Heavenly Creatures’ (1994) which was basically a surreal and disturbing story of a teenage infatuation between Winslet and Melanie Lynskey that led to a horrifc real-life murder in New Zealand.
Pugh has also done literary adaptations. Firstly with ‘Lady MacBeth’ which is not based on Shakespeare’s Scottish morality play, but is a British relocated adaptation of Russian author Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella ‘Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk’. This was the darker of Pugh’s shift into playing literary characters in the same way as the 1996 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude’ was one of the darkest roles of Winslet’s career.
Winslet’s other foray into literary drama was in Ang Lee’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (1995) - a Jane Austen classic - which earned her her first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Similarly, Pugh earned her first Oscar nomination for the same award for her delightful performance as spoiled Amy March in Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ (2019) which is based on Louisa May Alcott’s bestselling 1868 novel.
Of course, Winslet would go on to become one of the world’s most bankable movie stars by starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the then highest-grossing movie of all time - ‘Titanic’ (1997). Provided cinemas open in time, Pugh looks set to flex her mainstream muscles in search of big Box Office bucks in Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ (2021) which looks set to shoot her to international stardom.
She definitely deserves this. She’s a fantastic actress, maybe the best currently working and certainly the best under 30. With ‘Lady MacBeth’ showing on TV tonight, I thought what better time to give you my top 5 Florence Pugh performances and tell you why I think she is the “next Kate Winslet”...
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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