Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Title: We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Rating: NR
Director: Stacie Passon
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins

What It Is: In the mid 20th century, the Blackwoods live in a scenic mansion separated from the town and its people who despise them. Eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood (Farmiga) senses a darker force approaching the small household consisting of her older, wide-eyed sister Constance and Uncle Julian, and aims to protect it with spells. Soon after, their charming everyman-typed cousin Charles arrives in an effort, he says, to support them, when things go awry.

What We Think: What is right, and what is wrong? As usual, I like to start with the technical elements. And as far as filmmaking goes, this wasn’t too shabby. In fact, for as dull as the first little scene (I’ll get to that soon) I was actually impressed by the production value and production design unfolding more and more as the movie went on. It was lovely: the setpieces, the costuming, the settings of the mansion to the forests to the old little town, I was eating it up. Put simply, the cinematography supported the imagery, both moody and everything and everyone well-framed. It was all pretty atmospheric to a T: I applaud that. I’m thankful. On top of that, the acting was pretty good. The cast leads all recognizable and talented, do great with their characters. What I like is that they really are playing characters, people I haven’t seen them portray before. That was enjoyable: Taissa as the protagonist was an odd shut-in who is basically a crazy person who thinks she’s a witch, and Crispin Glover is a weird and benevolent author obsessed with his work. 

Now, here’s where I get to the nitty-gritty. The soundtrack was bad. It was distracting and manufactured in pushing this sort of dark, whimsical YA agenda. Being frank, it sort of reminded me of those fan soundtracks people would compose for young adult novels in the 2010s on Youtube. I’m sorry to the composer, who seems to have done solid work in the past—it just didn’t mesh with this one. Music of the time period or straight-out silence would have worked better, honestly.

The story: for what it was… it was okay. It could have been better. Being that the movie actually is based on a novel, I can see where it’s coming from. I enjoyed the concept—an odd family who don’t show any semblance of having any actual powers start shit, but as it went on, the plot became rather dull, predictable, cliche, and even a little nonsensical, much like the very scene it opens with. The writing isn’t bad, but the story lags, namely in the last half and especially in the last act. As impressive as the movie looks and the performances are, the story tries to be strangely profound but in actuality lacks impact and good pacing.

Our Grade: C-, I really appreciate the artistic effort obviously put into the film by the production designers, producers, writing team… but would I honestly watch this again? No. Similar in tone and intent as Mary Shelley or The Sisterhood of Night, so this film is a watch for more of a forgiving teenage audience that can appreciate a pretty and well-casted flick.

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Chai Simone Written by: