Scott Cooper's thriller The Pale Blue Eye starring Christian Bale and Harry Melling quickly became the most popular movie on Netflix, following the case of a mysterious murderer as the origin story of famed writer Edgar Allan Poe.
The Pale Blue Eye has a number of twists and turns as Bale's character Augustus Landor, along with Melling's young Poe, seek to find a murderer terrorizing the West Point U.S. military academy in 1830.
But there's a deceptive truth that's revealed by the end of the film.
Spoilers for The Pale Blue eye included beyond this point
Mystery, thriller genre invites more 'strange and psychological' investigations
Landor was called to the academy after a young cadet was found hanged and his heart carved out from his chest. Specifically, the cuts were done in a way to ensure the heart was preserved.
It's revealed that Lucy Boynton's character Lea Marquis is responsible for the removal of the hearts of two dead cadets. Lea, the daughter of the school's physician, suffers from seizures and is only given a short time to live. The human hearts were a necessary part of an occult ritual performed with the hope of extending Lea's life.
"I think it was a combination of the way that the character's written but also in the context of this genre," Boynton told Yahoo Canada about what attracted her to the character. "I think this genre invites much more in-depth, strange and psychological investigations into characters, and they're always going to be slightly more other than you first meet them to be."
"So it was kind of working out how to present her to the audience and unravel that. ... For me, it was kind of starting at the end and working my way back, and working out how to filter these kind of breadcrumbs in as to who she really is. That's always such a kind of intriguing and fun process."
Women being aware of how they are expected to 'present' in public
While much of The Pale Blue Eye revolves around the men in the story, primarily Landor and Poe, there's something particularly enticing about the narrative for Boynton's character. Her actions, as sinister as they may be, come under the context of a great expectation of how women should be behave and what their lives need to look like in this patriarchal society.
"I think what struck me about her instantly, from the script and the book, was that there seems to be something intrinsic in her that wants to push against that," Boynton said. "You realize she's struggling with an illness that makes her physically particularly frail and I think that has ignited in her this rejection of the idea of vulnerability, and being vulnerable to those in the world around you."
The actor added that it was particularly interesting for her to develop how Lea presents and develops in her "rejection" of vulnerability.
"As a woman, you are always aware, I think, of the way that you're expected to present and be received," Boynton said. "She's so intelligent and so precise about that, that it was just really satisfying getting to kind of construct that."
"How she is therefore presenting with people in the outside world versus her family, versus someone like Poe, who then unlocks something in her that is much more truthful and earnest. She's able to drop the facade in a way, and so you get to see so many different elements of her."
The final twist in The Pale Blue Eye comes as we discover that the Marquis family may be responsible for the removal of the hearts, but in terms of the actual deaths of these individuals, the crimes were committed by Landor himself.
While we set off to believe that Landor's daughter Mattie (Hadley Robinson) is missing, it turns out she committed suicide after being raped by cadets at the military academy. That led Landor to set out on his series of murders, not necessarily expecting that another crime, the removal of the hearts, would occur shortly after.
There's something sort of exciting about losing the trust in your guide through a movie with a twist like we see in The Pale Blue Eye, but to really get the complexity for both Landor and Lea in the story, it takes great attention to detail.