Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is another film that is set almost entirely in one location: a girls’ boarding school in Virginia during the Civil War. Like “The Shining,” the film is also concerned with the relationships between men and women, and it allows its plot to slowly percolate into a violent finale. What makes “The Beguiled” special is its overwhelmingly female cast of characters. In fact, all but one of the key characters are women.
But the single male character is the driving force of the movie’s story, which was adapted from a book of the same name by Thomas P. Cullinan (itself previously adapted to film in 1971). Coppola’s movie begins when one of the young women finds wounded Union Army Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), and brings him back to the school to be treated by the school’s proprietor, Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman).
The appearance of a man on the premises (and one as good looking as Colin Farrell, no less), piques the interest of the women. They begin vying for his attention and affection. McBurney returns some of the attention, as he begins multiple relationships with Martha, Edwina (Kirsten Dunst), and Alicia (Elle Fanning), which creates a simmering tension that inevitably boils over.
Like “The Shining,” “The Beguiled” functions as an atmospheric and tense exploration of the ways in which men and women relate to one another. It also culminates in a fantastic genre movie climax, albeit one that may seem subtle in comparison to Kubrick’s film. “The Beguiled” also includes children in its cast, which is a key aspect of what makes “The Shining” so scary, whether you fear for Danny’s safety or want to stay as far away from the Grady sisters as possible.