It’s summer, yes, but don’t we all have time for a good gothic yarn? We Have Always Lived in the Castle might be the perfect recalibration to bring nihilistic ennui into your summer time fun….
Sisters Merricat (Taissa Farmiga) and Constance (Alexandra Daddario) Blackwood live with their wheelchair-bound and brain-addled uncle Julian (Crispin Glover) in an isolated mansion, where six years before, their parents were murdered with arsenic-laced sugar. Constance, now an agoraphobe, hasn’t left the house since being acquitted for the killings. The nearby townspeople believe Constance has gotten away with murder, which only exacerbates their longstanding resentment towards the wealthy family. Long suffering yet stoic Merricat is sent into town each week for groceries and library books, where she is treated to nearly constant hostile jeers and teasing. In an effort to keep her sister safe, Merricat creates spells and practices what she thinks is magic, burying items all over the grounds of their sprawling estate. When their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) shows up unbidden, and begins to form a relationship with Constance, the dynamic of this eccentric family shifts, putting their future, loyalties, and what little sanity they have between them at risk.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is based on the last novel released by writer Shirley Jackson, during her short lifetime. Time magazine called it one of the best novels of 1962. Her short story The Lottery, when it originally published in The New Yorker in 1948, generated hate mail and cancelled subscriptions for the magazine. There’s no question that all her work, including We Have Always Lived in the Castle, was suffused with a subversive feminism, and that transfers onto the screen, thank goddess, although it is a feminism born out of want and lack of agency.