1862 English nurse Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) arrives in the Irish countryside. Here, according to rumors, 11-year-old Anna (Kayla Lord Cassidy) has not eaten for several months and feels great about it. Either it is necessary to find out how the girl manages without food, and bring the patient to clean water.
The action of the picture takes place thirteen years after the Great Famine: the echoes of grief do not subside, Ireland is still devastated by the consequences of misfortune, the inhabitants cast sidelong glances at the well-fed and completely alien Englishwoman. Lib, in a sky-blue dress, winds his steps around the village and daily looks for the answer to the question: “Does the girl really do without food or is it all an ordinary deception?” As a man of science, the nurse does not believe in any “manna from heaven” and is fiercely opposed to the pious residents convinced of Anna’s divine power. Is it any wonder that the child immediately became a ray of light in this dungeon, where a decade ago everyone lost someone and now catastrophically needs a miracle?
Without the visual storytelling and the power of the music, a story full of innuendo would not play out as it should. Composer Matthew Herbert evokes tremors and fear with the help of sounds, and the camera of cameraman Ari Wegner (who also worked on The Power of the Dog) carefully moves through the cold Irish landscape, capturing the lonely figure of Florence Pugh (she, as you know, any landscape suits) against the background of endless fields. The film now and then borders on the territory of mysticism, but the horror here lurks in the dark corridors of trauma and the ghosts of the past.
Emma Donoghue didn’t take the idea of a fasting girl out of her mind. In the Victorian era, there was indeed a phenomenon of teenage girls who claimed they could not eat for an extended period. Similar cases have become the impetus for telling other small tragedies. The halo of mystery around Anna dissipates so that the viewer can be drawn into another secret – more frightening and causing a ton of sympathy.
The film is not much different from the plot of the book, but Sebastian Lelio opens the picture with the destruction of the fourth wall and the voice-over reminding the audience that the characters sincerely believe in their stories. Perhaps this is the message of the Chilean director – no matter how much science and medicine are on your side, when a person unconditionally clings to his own truth. Well, to summarize without spoilers, then be prepared – the main wonder in the picture is Florence Pugh.