Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr Viber
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe to Empire!
Save up to 63%
Want To Be An Empire Journalist?
We're looking for reporters for the BFI London Film Festival
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

Julia Roberts
John Malkovich
George Cole
Michael Gambon.
Stephen Frears.
Valerie Martin
Christopher Hampton.
Running Time
104 minutes

4 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
2 Star Empire Rating
Intern, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Nightmare, The
3 Star Empire Rating

5 Star Empire Rating
Man With A Movie Camera
5 Star Empire Rating
Salt Of The Earth, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Song Of The Sea
5 Star Empire Rating
Look Of Silence, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Mary Reilly
Clever slant on the classic tale of Jekyll & Hyde

submit to reddit

A housemaid falls in love with Dr. Jekyll and his darkly mysterious counterpart, Mr. Hyde.

Every so often a film comes along that people are determined to hate. This was practically disowned by its studio after disputes with the director, and victim of unanimously contemptuous reviews and an indecently hasty exit from theatres. And yet there's a lot to admire.Valerie Martin's original novel is a daring, brilliant and thoughtful embroidery on Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, freshening up the story by presenting it through the eyes of a maidservant in the Jekyll household. Its stroke of genius, employed cleverly in the film, is that everyone knows the solution to the mystery, but you can see how Mary could never possibly guess (that Dr Jekyll is Mr Hyde).

You spend the whole film knowing what the characters are thinking (very subtle direction sets up complex relationships) but also where they are wrong, and how tragic the consequences might be.

The down side is that neither lead performer quite works. Julia Roberts is physically right, and the reining-in of her usual big grin and big hair to suggest how downtrodden Mary has been is very moving, but her Irish always sounds strangled, especially when sharing scenes with Bronagh Gallagher. And John Malkovich's prissy, Canadian-sounding Jekyll and leering, nasal Hyde are also somewhat hit-and-miss readings of great roles.

What tips the scales in Mary Reilly's favour is that, in an era when Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview With The Vampire and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein desperately try to sell themselves as romantic melodramas or literary adaptations, this isn't afraid to be a horror movie. The characters have more depth than Hammer would allow, but there are genuinely shocking moments (Hyde's appearance in Mary's bed, his trampling of a child, a hand grasping an ankle) and the dismal gloom of Jekyll's house, with its neglected courtyard and clanking chain-supported bridges, affords an atmosphere of real dread.

You won't easily forget the wriggling, symbolic eel or the buckets of blood poured on the stairs, and there's even a touch of Gothic camp in Glenn Close's scarlet madam. Overall, worth giving a second chance.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Empire Meets Ridley Scott
The great director on The Martian, Blade Runner 2 and the Prometheus sequels

Jessica Chastain On The Martian
On becoming an astronaut and rescuing Matt Damon AGAIN

My Movie Life: Justin Kurzel
The Macbeth director on how Rocky changed his life and the worst ever date movie

Life On Mars: Trips To The Red Planet
A dozen of cinema's Martian misadventures

Hallowed Ground: Folk Horror In British Film
Ten tales from our island's dark past

All Hail Macbeth! The Scottish Play On Film
By the pricking of our thumbs, ten adaptations this way come(s)

10 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Toys You’ll Want To Own
Falcon quad copter? BB-8 Sphero? We’re already asking for pay raises…

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Empire print magazine

Delivered to your door – with exclusive subscriber only covers each month! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Empire digital magazine

Exclusive and enhanced content – get instant access via your iPad or Android device! Save money today and

Subscribe now!

Subscribe now and save up to 63%
Print, Digital & Package options available Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire Digital Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  Digital Edition  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)