Sundance 2018 Review: “Lizzie” (2018) ★★★★

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No crime should ever be accepted or justified, and even less – be admired by any means. Yet, in some circumstances, it may appear the only way out of a maddeningly unjust situation. You may be persuaded it was necessary when the crime story is told in a compelling way. Now, add to this the fact, that what you are about to read or see is based on a true story. Will you support or go against the crime you are about to witness on the silver screen? I believe your answer will depend on many things. “Lizzie” is a story of a classical double-murder committed by an individual that nobody will date to suspect. That is from the first glance, of course. Once you get an insight view of what has really taken place, nothing will look impossible to you anymore.

The film follows its title character Lizzie, portrayed by Chloë Sevigny. Lizzie lives in Fall River, Massachusetts with her family – her sister Emma, stepmother Anny and her very rich but dominating father Andrew. One might think Lizzie’s life is already privileged and she has nothing more to ask for. In reality, she lives isolated from the world because of her father’s unjustified desire to protect his daughter. The already tensed relationships in the family change from bad to worse with the appearance of the new made Maggie (Kristen Stewart). Like Lizzie, she soon becomes the victim of the unpleasant circumstances.

Set in August 1892, the story starts with Lizzie entering her home and finding her father brutally murdered. A moment later, she realizes that her stepmother is also lying on the floor lifeless. Her face is completely smashed. As the police arrive, they begin questioning Lizzie. Immediately, we are taken six months back. These earlier events will give us a better understanding of what has happened and why someone needed both her parents to be killed in such heinous way.

Maggie is just a regular maid in the household. Until the moment Lizzie puts an eye on her. They become close friends, and even more. They realize they need each other in this dark and depressing house. We witness the unbearable and ruthless relationship of Lizzie with her father and even her uncle John who is not much different from his brother. Both men are rude, violent and disrespectful toward their family members. If in the very beginning of the film, the viewer may wonder why Lizzie despises her father so much, the question vanishes the moment Andrew makes an unwanted advance on Maggie in the middle of the night. His sexual abuses against Maggie continue and Lizzie witnesses that during one nightmarish evening. That’s when she makes a decision in her mind and has no desire to give up on her plan.

Strong performances from Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart show the tender intimacy between the two women, which holds the right balance between determination, hesitation, and shyness. The uncertainty fades away when both Maggie and Lizzie stop hiding their sympathy for each other. Chloë Sevigny’s Lizzie is an uncompromising young woman. Her temper knows no boundaries and in this most crucial moment in her life, you will how important it is for her not to stop. Kristen Stewart’s Maggie is a somewhat naive but very charming young woman who does not need much from this life. Already losing her only relative – her mother, Lizzie appears the only one who cares about her, as a friend, partner and lover.

In conclusion, you might expect “Lizzie” to be a conventional lesbian film. Once you see it, you will never feel that way. it’s a well-structured psychological thriller and with the help of Sevigny/Stewart duo, you will be fully unprepared for the drama that will unfold in front of you for the next one hour and forty-five minutes. Written by Bryce Kaas and directed by Craig William Macneill, “Lizzie” is one of the decent true crime dramas that has been brought up to us recently. It’s a dynamic period drama that will steal your attention away from the eventful 21st century. Believe me, the 19th century has its own right to claim your attention for some time and you shall certainly enjoy it.

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