Elizabeth Moss continues to prove her acting chops as American author Shirley Jackson gets the biopic treatment in the new film from director Josephine Decker. Eschewing the usual biopic conventions, Shirley’s fictionalised story is adapted from the novel by Susan Scarf Merrell. Moss stars as The Haunting of Hill House author Jackson as young couple Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) move into the house she shares with her husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) on the campus of Bennington College.
Struggling with mental illness and writer’s block, Shirley comes to rely upon the assistance of Rose, while Fred struggles to make an impression as a junior professor working under Stanley at the college. It is from this dynamic that Decker works to conjure a heady atmosphere of psychological torment as the four players tangle together in a web of manipulation, abuse, eroticism and alcoholism. As in her previous film Madeline’s Madeline, the filmmaker’s experimental approach yields mixed — but always interesting — results as it teases out the relationship between mental health and artistic creation.