Based on the 1962 novel of the same title, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE features Taissa Farmiga (The Twilight Zone), Alexandra Daddario (Lost Transmissions), Sebastian Stan (Avengers: Endgame), and Crispin Glover (American Gods). The director of this drama-thriller is Stacie Passon. She has previously directed episodes of Tales of the City, The Society, and American Gods.
The story follows Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, an eccentric 18-year-old who lives with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. The movie opens with a slow fade, showing Merricat writing, and speaking in voice-over. “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood,” she writes. “I am 18 years old, and I live with my sister Constance. She is the most precious person in the world. The Blackwoods have always lived in this house, we have never done anything to hurt anyone. We put things back where they belong. And we will never leave here, no matter what they say. Or what they do to us. Never.”
With that ominous opening, we begin to see life through Merricat’s eyes. Constance acts as an always-smiling caregiver, while Uncle Julian tries to write his memoirs about an unfortunate poisoning that killed the Blackwood parents. One day a distant cousin, Charles, shows up. He has nefarious intentions—trying to woo Constance, fighting with Merricat and Uncle Charles, and trying to steal the family’s fortune. As the title suggests, the Blackwoods have always lived in their castle, and Merricat is determined to protect what she loves most.
The film is full of detailed props and vibrant set pieces. There’s the old-fashioned diner where Merricat faces her bullies, the Blackwood house full of old portraits and tchotchkes, and a yard full of buried treasures (Merricat’s doing, of course.)
Details about the poisoning of the Blackwood parents are parceled out in juicy tidbits. The movie shines during conflict scenes, such as when two society women come over for tea at the Blackwood Castle and end up prying into the details of the deaths. There are also several hilarious arguments between Merricat, Charles, Uncle Julian, and Constance.
The acting and direction are great. The story moves along at a brisk pace, often foreshadowing future events in a satisfying way. It’s really predictable, but watching life through Merricat’s eyes is so much fun that it hardly matters. Taissa Farmiga gives a great performance as Merricat, crafting a character who is nuanced in her anger towards Charles and in her love for her family. Overall, WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is an amusing mystery-drama that you’ll want to watch again and again.
WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is in theaters and on VOD on May 17th.