What is the story about?
When rancher George Burbank marries Rose, a widow, his brother Phil keeps humiliating her in public, leading to her slow mental disintegration. But why does Phil do what he does, and will he suffer the consequences of his actions?
Jane Campion's return to the directorial chair after a decade for a film is certainly a statement, and she brings her vision to life with her own take on the Western genre. Phil and George Burbank are the archetypal "manly" ranchers in 1920s Montana, and take pride in demonstrations of their masculinity. The arrival of Rose and her son, however, makes Phil feel threatened, and he wastes no opportunity in ridiculing her. The Phil-Rose dynamic is just heartbreaking to watch, but Campion also wants us to keep our eyes peeled on what this excessive reliance on being macho does to Phil's own psyche. The revenge sub-plot is so skilfully woven into the screenplay that it is almost imperceptible, and yet it catches your attention when you least expect it to. The Power Of The Dog is a terrific riff on the Western, where Campion skilfully plays around with masculinities and queernesses, leading one to wonder about the true cost of cleaving to patriarchy. The screenplay takes its time in building up the tension, but the second half of the film is where all the payoff happens. Give it some time, and this film will certainly get under your skin.
Benedict Cumberbatch lives and breathes the role of Phil. Cumberbatch plays Phil so scarily well that it is impossible to decide whether to hate him or feel for him. Kirsten Dunst is heartbreakingly real as the struggling Rose, while Jesse Plemons is all right as George.
Music & Other Departments
The cinematography captures the aridness of Montana in all its splendour and horror. The background score and production design are outstanding.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil
Kirsten Dunst as Rose
The screenplay and direction
Did I enjoy it?
Do I recommend it?