Review: The Beguiled is a sumptuous, subversive Southern tale

Set during the American Civil War, Sofia Coppola's latest film is a wonderfully entertaining tale of desire, danger and morality in the old South.

The Beguiled sees a wounded Northern soldier arrive at a small Christian girls' school in West Virginia, triggering fear and fascination amongst its inhabitants.

Restricted to the school and a small amount of the surrounding area, the film is stripped back and slow paced, driven by hugely impressive performances from each of its cast members and Coppola's extraordinary eye for the interesting.

In someone else's hands, this could have easily been much more lurid and heavy-handed; but the Lost in Translation filmmaker instead allows viewers to enjoy teasing out great meaning from subtleties in between the bigger moments.

The tone shifts comfortably from humour to drama and back again - sometimes within the same scene - with an underlying sense of menace pervading everything until it explodes in the third act.

The Beguiled is funny, sexy and scary in all the right places - a glorious period romp easily recommendable as a festival pick.

Four stars.

* The Beguiled is playing at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.