Gruesome news is always alluring to the general populace. We love to read about a murder and try to understand what happened or what went wrong. It's an unfortunate and morbid part of our very nature that spans back though our history, horrific violence for entertainment - assuming it wasn't being enacted on you. But what happens when violence and theatre meet on the streets of Victorian London, and are we ready for this new take on an ancient spectacle?
It's London, 1880, and the streets are home to the denizens of the Victorian underworld, denizens who also populate the music hall where the story is set (or told? or enacted? - I still can't work that one out). The story is that of Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke, 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl'), set to hang for the murder of her husband. But this fate may be avoided as Detective Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy, 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel', 'About Time') is set on the case of the Limehouse Golem. It's a high mystery with elements of the fantastical that will have you guessing, almost to the last minute.
It is surely no secret by now that I adore the whimsical, fantastical and theatrical. But for what I was assuming was going to be a more straightforward Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, I was mistaken. That isn't to say this didn't work; I just spend a fair amount of time wondering what was going on and who was who. This is probably one of the best devices of the film, breaking away from the usual tropes. In the theatre, anything is possible, and so too it felt like in 'The Limehouse Golem.' I often felt like I was watching two separate films that had been combined, as there was so much of the film set in flashback. Part gory murder story, part courtroom drama, questions were asked and then maybe even over-answered.
I couldn't stop second-guessing myself throughout, and that was definitely part of the fun and the appeal. Just when you think you're about to get an answer in a flashback, you get more than you bargained for and it changes the question you originally had. That said, I still don't think I understand the ending, or indeed who "done" it. I thought I had an answer when I saw it but now I just don't know at all. Does this film even exist? Do I exist?
Just when you think you're about to get an answer in a flashback, you get more than you bargained for and it changes the question you originally had.
Nothing is certain.
There is a definite charm around the film and you literally have every British actor who is alive right now in it. I think setting it in a music hall or theatre gives the film a certain creative licence with how it tells its story: you are always trying to figure out not only the murderer but who in fact is telling what part of this elaborate tale. I haven't read the book this film was based on, 'Don Leno and the Limehouse Golem' by Peter Ackroyd, but now have a burning desire to as there are still so many questions I need answered. To quote myself though, maybe I'm just being really ignorant.
Regardless of my ignorance, make your mind up for yourself and tell me who you think 'The Limehouse Golem' actually was - it's sure to be a talking point walking out of the film.