LFF 2020: ‘Shirley’ – Film Review – THN

A review of Josephine Decker’s ‘Shirley’, for THN’s LFF 2020 coverage.

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Josephine Decker follows up her much celebrated film Madeline’s Madeline with this unconventional biopic, one that takes the work and life of horror writer Shirley Jackson and forges its own tale of suspense that is very much in keeping with the spirit of the iconic writer’s work. 

Shirley Jackson is responsible for some of the most startling and frightening pieces of literature of all time, with The Haunting of Hill House remaining one of the most unsettling ghost stories ever put to paper. The author herself lived a short and troubled life, with health issues, a battle with agoraphobia and an unhappy marriage colouring her existence late in her 47 years of life. The power of her writing has gifted her a legacy that continues to get under the skin of genre fans everywhere. 

That this sort-of-but-not-really biopic should be a strange and unsettling creature, one in which we’re unsure we can trust anything we’re seeing, feels perfectly in tune with its subject. Choosing to craft a fictionalised take on a period in Jackson’s life where she was developing her story ‘Hangsaman’, Decker’s film finds the means to craft a story that is beating with the same macabre heart that drove Jackson’s writing. As such, it is one of the more original takes on a biopic in recent memory. 

Full article on THN, originally published October 9th 2020.

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