I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen while watching this beautifully directed film based on the novel by Thomas P. Cullinan. It is not surprising that Sofia Coppola won Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. And the cast of A-listers—Colin Farrell (Corporal John McBurney), Nicole Kidman (Miss Martha Farnsworth), Kirsten Dunst (Miss Edwina), Elle Fanning (Alicia)—deliver excellent performances.
The story of the wounded Union soldier discovered in the woods behind a Southern girls’ boarding school has been retold from a woman’s point of view. Isolated and forced to corset up their feelings in an all-female environment, the women find themselves both fascinated and repelled by the enemy soldier who is suddenly in their midst.
But it’s not long before they fall under the Corporal’s spell.
Miss Martha tends to the Corporal’s wounds, all the while maintaining her haughty demeanor. The melancholy Miss Edwina starts to blossom under his flattery while Alicia is determined to test her budding powers of seduction. The younger girls giggle and chatter about “blue-bellies” raiding their gardens.
The sexual tension escalates, and dangerous rivalries emerge as the women vie for the Corporal’s attention. An accident and ensuing consequences bring the film to its horrific end.
I recommend viewing this film on the big screen. The outdoor cinematography is outstanding and succeeds in creating a soft, feminine milieu. As for the Civil War…it is reduced to distant cannon fire.