‘The Keeping Room’ Movie Review

Keeping Room Brit Marling Hailee Steinfeld Muna Otaru
Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, and Brit Marling in ‘The Keeping Room’

The Keeping Room will continue rolling out into new cities over the Halloween weekend, which is perfect timing as it’s one of the scariest films of 2015. Directed by Daniel Barber from a script by Julia Hart, this isn’t a horror film in the conventional sense of the word yet it delivers the chills and thrills missing from this year’s horror releases.

Defining The Keeping Room isn’t easily accomplished, even though on the surface the premise sounds simple. The feminist twist puts this R-rated drama in a different league than previous films set in the same Civil War time period. The Keeping Room also features terrific acting from its small ensemble who convincingly bring 1865 to life on the screen.

Brit Marling (The East) plays older sister Augusta, a self-sufficient young woman who is managing her family’s farm with the assistance of her younger sister, Louise (Hailee Steinfeld), and Mad (Muna Otaru), a slave who Augusta considers a member of the family. The times are incredibly difficult, with the farm barely providing enough vegetables for meals. Augusta does occasionally manage to shoot a small animal, but keeping their strength up from the meager amount they eat is a daily challenge.

The men have been off fighting for the South, so the women must not only work the farm but also defend it from Union soldiers. And with the South on the losing side, Union soldiers are now beginning to sweep back through this part of the country on the way back to their homes in the North.

Augusta encounters two such Union soldiers, Moses (Sam Worthington) and Henry (Kyle Soller), when she’s forced to make a trip to town for medicine. For the most part, the three women have been keeping to themselves on the farm so as not to draw any attention to the fact they’re isolated and on their own. Unfortunately, the two soldiers are not only the type of men who prey on women but also cold-blooded killers. Wisely, Augusta races home, hoping that the men will not be able to follow her tracks. However luck is not on her side and the women must do whatever it takes to keep themselves from being sexually assaulted and killed.

The Keeping Room – The Bottom Line:

The Keeping Room is intense and the threat of violence against the three women feels almost unbearably real. The world in which the film is set is desolate, cold, and brutal, with the focus on how the horrors of war affect those left at home as well as how it changes those actively involved in shedding the blood of their enemies on the battlefield. Were Moses and Henry decent men before they left to join in the fighting? Were they changed into monsters who hunt women only after becoming soldiers? There’s a lot to think about at the end of The Keeping Room and it’s likely this will be one of those rare films that sticks with you for quite a while following a screening.


MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including a sexual assault

Running Time: 95 minutes

Watch the trailer: