(USA/UK/South Korea)

Metacritic (4/10), Letterboxd (2/5), Imdb.com (4/10), TMDB.com (2/5)

Rarely have I seen a film as implausible, unfocused and meandering as this second feature outing from director William Oldroyd. After an impressive debut with “Lady Macbeth” (2016), the filmmaker has stumbled seriously in this latest effort, a supposed psychological mystery/thriller that never finds traction and yet somehow manages to go wildly off the rails in the final act. This cinematic misfire examines the relationship that develops between two women who work at a young men’s prison in 1960s small town Massachusetts. Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie) is a reserved, awkward, often-bullied, sexually repressed administrative assistant, and Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) is the facility’s newly hired, sophisticated, worldly, Harvard-educated psychologist. They quickly strike up a close yet somewhat unlikely bond with less-than-subtle (but apparently never-consummated) sexual overtones, a story thread that seems to be heading somewhere but never does. In large part that’s because the protagonists end up becoming involved in a hare-brained scheme worthy of Lucy and Ethel, only with significant implications, a scenario that comes out of left field and sends the narrative into serious, unexplained head-scratching territory. While the picture features a fine production design, a palette of creative cinematography, and capable Independent Spirit Award-nominated supporting performances by Hathaway and Marin Ireland, there’s not much else here that’s engaging, riveting or worthwhile, elements essential to a good mystery/thriller offering. Whatever the filmmaker was going for here obviously never comes to fruition, thanks to either its poorly composed script or its mishandled execution (or a combination thereof). Indeed, this is one of those films where virtually the entire project truly would have been better off left on the cutting room floor.