Posts Tagged ‘Alistair Sewell’

The Suicide Widow and her Son

The Power of the Dog

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy, Alistair Sewell, George Mason, Thomasin McKenzie, Alice Englert

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service

After a hiatus from filmmaking for over a decade, acclaimed New Zealand film maker and director Jane Campion returns with a tightly wrought Western style family drama The Power of the Dog which recently had its glamourous world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival.

Set in Montana in 1925, The Power of the Dog is a superbly directed cinematic adaptation of a novel by Thomas Savage about Rose Gordon and her son Peter Gordon played respectfully by Kirsten Dunst (Interview with a Vampire, Marie Antoinette, The Beguiled) who gives an Oscar worthy performance and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romeo and Juliet, The Road) who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Smit-McPhee’s performance is truly phenomenal matched only by the film’s other brilliant performance given by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as the hyper-masculine and brutish Phil Burbank, a charismatic Montana rancher. British star Benedict Cumberbatch also deserves another Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in The Power of the Dog.

When Phil’s younger brother George Burbank, played by Kirsten Dunst’s real life husband Jesse Plemons marries the fragile Rose Gordon, he attempts to introduce Rose and her son Peter into the life of the wealthy Burbank family, Montana ranchers complete with land, arrogance and an absolute disdain for the native Americans.

Rose has to contend with sharing the sprawling mansion in Montana with her vile and threatening brother-in-law Phil Burbank, who feels nothing at gelding cattle barehanded or swimming naked in a local river covered in mud. Phil is ruthless, nasty and filled with pent-up-rage. Cumberbatch’s performance is absolute startling as he plays against type and every scene with him and Kirsten Dunst crackles with tension and that underlying threat of violence.

Into this electrifying atmosphere, quietly appears Rose’s son Peter Gordon who is studying to be a surgeon, a shy and awkward young man with a sinister habit of vivisection and harbouring a covert sexual desire.

Peter Gordon is mocked openly by Phil Burbank and his gang of macho ranchers for being a nancy boy or a faggot. He wears strange shoes and displays no interest in anything physical especially tennis.

When Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon strike up an unlikely bond, Rose cannot cope with her fragile son being bullied by her brutish brother-in-law and takes to the bottle.

Despite the fact that The Power of the Dog should have been shown at cinemas and is only available on Netflix, one cannot help but imagine watching director Jane Campion’s film on a big screen for as a masterful director she paints beautiful and complex cinematic strokes, touching on such issues as sexuality, addiction, power dynamics and more significantly the devious mind of the male psyche.

Every shot of The Power of the Dog is beautifully crafted and the entire narrative which is psychological in nature is expertly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The Power of the Dog is not going to appeal to everyone, but that wasn’t director Jane Campion’s intentions. Her Oscar winning film The Piano didn’t either.

If viewers loved The Piano then they will enjoy The Power of the Dog, a masterful tale of sinister family dynamics, of voyeurism and forbidden sexual desire, of lust and carnage with an ending that is both disturbing and brilliant.

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