Shirley (2020) London Film Festival Movie Review

Director: Josephine Decker

Writer: Sarah Gubbins (Screenplay) Susan Scarf Merrell (Novel)

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman, Victoria Pedretti, Robert Wuhl

Plot: A famous horror writer finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Shirley starts as a young couple Fred Nemset (Lerman) and Rose (Young) move in with successful author Shirley (Moss) and her teacher husband Stanley (Stuhlbarg). As Rose doesn’t enjoy the company of Shirley, whose nature doesn’t hold back in her comments.

Shirley however gets inspiration from the young couple of a new novel, one about a missing woman, that reminds her of Rose, as the two start to gain a level of respect for each other, even becoming friends spending time together.

Thoughts on Shirley

Characters – Shirley is an estranged reclusive author who rarely leaves her home, she doesn’t hold back on her comments on people and often doesn’t like many people, including her husband. She starts out being distant from Rose, but starts to use her to help her create her latest horror book, while starting to come out of her own shell more. Rose Nemser is moving with her husband to attend the university that Shirley’s husband works at, she gets welcomed into the home, where she doesn’t start getting along with Shirley, before toughing it out to learn how complex she truly is and wants to learn more about standing up to her husband’s demands. Stanley is Shirley’s cheating husband, he has been doing this for years with his students and does have an agreement with Shirley. Fred is Rose’s husband that is learning under Stanley, he wants to be a good husband, but sees what he could have with a wife at home too.

PerformancesElisabeth Moss is great in the leading role, showing a complex character who has been struggling through her life, with Odessa Young breaking onto the scene with her performance which sees her keep up with Moss on nearly every level. Michael Stuhlbarg fills the supporting role with ease, making us want to see more from him in every scene too.

StoryThe story here follows a young couple that move into the home of a famous author and her husband, with them soon becoming the inspiration to Shirley to write her latest novel. This is a story that does focus on relationships and how they be built up after getting to know somebody more, it does deal with people not finding socialising easy and is also tackling how women were only seen as wives.

SettingsThe film uses the home setting for Shirley to show how difficult it will be for her to leave the home preferring to be away from the world.


Scene of the Movie – Mushrooms

That Moment That Annoyed Me – We only hear what the husbands are up to, rather than seeing how easily they could have their heads turned.

Final Thoughts Shirley is a wonderfully acting movie that will tell a big story about relationships and inspiration.



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