tek's rating: ½

The Limehouse Golem (not rated)
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Before I watched this, I thought it would be more of a horror movie than it turned out to be. It's mostly a murder mystery, so that's where I'm putting my review. But I guess I'll also link to it in my "gothic horror" section.

There is a series of murders in the Limehouse district of London, in 1880, and the public refers to the unknown killer as "the Golem." (I'm not sure, but I never got the impression that anyone actually thought it was a real golem. And to be clear, it's definitely not. There's nothing supernatural about this movie.) Scotland Yard assigns Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) to investigate the case, with assistance from Constable George Flood. This is Kildare's first murder case, having been relegated to a less prestigious department for most of his career due to rumors about his sexual orientation. (The movie never really makes it clear whether there's any truth to the rumors, but it shouldn't matter.) Meanwhile, in a separate case, a man named John Cree has died, and his wife, Lizzie (Olivia Cooke), falls under suspicion of having poisoned him. Kildare's investigation leads him to a library, where he finds a book that the Golem had used as a diary. There are four names in the register as having been in the reading room on the date of the last entry in the diary, so they become the prime suspects. One of those names is Cree, which Constable Flood recognizes as the name of the recent murder victim. Kildare becomes obsessed with discovering the Golem's identity, hoping it will be Cree, which could be an extenuating circumstance in Lizzie's case, which might prevent her from being hanged for murdering her husband.

The movie frequently switches between various time periods. We see bits of Lizzie's trial, and visits Kildare makes to her in prison, and flashbacks to her childhood and young adulthood. As a young girl, she was raped, and when her mother found out, she treated Lizzie with terrible cruelty, rather than sympathy. Years later, her mother died, and Lizzie eventually began working in a music hall, where she was befriended by a famous performer named Dan Leno (who would later become one of the four suspects in Kildare's investigation). Lizzie herself also eventually became a famous performer. And she eventually met Cree, who took an immediate romantic interest in her. This exacerbated the ill will another performer, Aveline Ortega, already had toward Lizzie, because she herself had a romantic interest in Cree. Oh, and there are also scenes where entries in the Golem's diary are acted out as they're being recited, each time by a different one of the suspects, which I thought was a neat technique, to keep us guessing which one was really the Golem.

Well, lots of other things happen, both in flashbacks and in the present (1880). I don't want to reveal too much about any of that, especially the ultimate results of Kildare's investigation, or what happens to Lizzie, in the end. I'll just say it's a very interesting movie. Great characters, well acted, and all that. It was also interesting (though of course greatly disturbing) to see how misogynistic Victorian London was. In particular I was horrified by the fact that music hall audiences (including both men and women) were so amused by "comedies" about spousal abuse. ...Anyway, I really don't know what else to say.

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