American drama thriller directed by Josephine Decker, which premiered in early 2020, had its effect on the minds of the audience. Mysteriousness, understatement, play on words and thoughts – that’s how you can describe this work.
This picture is not something simple and mediocre, from which you can shed a tear or laugh hysterically for a long time. But the film will cause a slight smile and for a while will make you think, just like the main character of the story, Shirley – detached and cynical, while being refined and without embellishment.
What is Shirley about?
The protagonist of the story is Shirley Jackson, a well-known and gifted writer in her own way, who creates her works in the horror genre. Shirley, despite her apparent helplessness and apathy, is eager to write an exciting new novel.
Inspired by the story of a student who disappeared under rather mysterious circumstances, she begins to move in this direction, becoming obsessed with this idea. At the same time, being in a creative crisis, she cannot move forward. This makes her suffer and exist in eternal attempts to unravel the mystery of Paola, the disappeared girl.
At the same time, Stanley – her husband, a professor, brings temporary residents to their house – a young student and his wife Rose. The girl turns out to be familiar with Shirley’s work, and at the first meeting with her, she calls one of her stories “excitingly vile”, which only causes a smirk on the face of the writer.
Shirley is initially unhappy with the fact that strangers live in their house, she does not like them. However, her husband convinces her that it will benefit both of them. Resigned to this, she agrees, but considers she has the right to behave as she sees fit, provoking the young couple in every possible way by talking about their extramarital affair and the pregnancy that happened. But, despite this, it happens that she finds in the girl the heroine of her future novel and, over time, they have a special trusting relationship with Rose, from which everyone takes his own: Shirley is a saving inspiration, and Rose is some kind of intrigue, and interest in life.
Days go by. The book is almost finished, Rose becomes a mother, and her husband offers to leave this house.
But, one fine day, Shirley tells her about her husband’s infidelities and the girl, who has lost her strong faith in him, has thoughts of suicide, and, at the very end of the story, she finds herself on a cliff where Paola, the heroine of the novel, supposedly made the jump, the last one in my life.
Explanation of the meaning of the film “Shirley”
The film is not easy. Every minute of the story, the creators keep us in suspense, and constantly switch our attention from one character to another, thereby forcing us to measure the depth of their human essence.
Below are a few themes from history that require more consecration.
Difficult and shameless… the process of creating a novel
An observant viewer might have noticed that Shirley, despite all her love for Rose, was just playing with her all this time. And no wonder. Being a kind of obedient and pliable projection of the unfortunate heroine of the novel, she is ideal for watching her, testing her feelings for strength. Excellent material and at the same time a muse, Rose helps Shirley in her intrigues: steals materials for her, finds out about the missing girl, gives her thoughts and ideas. And the writer skillfully uses this. Despite her concern about the girl’s life, sometimes it seems that she is not worried about what will happen to a real person, but what will happen to Paola, the heroine of the novel. Anticipation of misfortune and tragedy is what the creative and idea-obsessed mind really lacks.
Oh this wonderful world
These are educated cultured people, “personalities” who behave like savages. Empty, ignorant, insignificant and hypocritical, living in a state of eternal lust, and breathing the vapors of debauchery, but at the same time striving to be in the light of true virtue. Husbands Shirley and Rose are a vivid example of this. These people, who directed their efforts to science and enlightenment, as it turned out, were looking for nothing more than recognition among young people and scoundrels like them.
Cheap sugariness, which throughout the film makes us understand how people more gifted and worthy, lonely in this strange and chaotic world.
It would not be a mistake to say that the film has a slight feminist touch. Only here, unlike the fierce and independent warriors for the rights and freedom of women, we see a quiet and almost imperceptible series of battles, such that they allowed at least a little consolation to the female ego, but without any intention to prove the truth. Women in some moments strive to show their strength and show their will. However, the effect produced by this is rather weak, since every slightest attempt to take the situation into their own hands leads them to the fact that they themselves, without realizing it, fall under the power of men even more than before.
How does Shirley end?
The film ends with a short scene in which Shirley, sitting in front of her husband, listens to his feedback on her already completed novel. Her violent temper and impudence at this moment are hidden, as never before, on the face of fear and awe. Vulnerability to his opinion, fear of hearing that her work is worthless and failed. But, at the same time, happiness from what he heard, and from the fact that everything is over. And most importantly, recognition. Recognition that the book brought pain, much more than others.