Movie review of “The Keeping Room”: British director Daniel Barber labors to impress with this Southern period thriller about three women under siege during the Civil War.

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The ravages of the Civil War shouldn’t require much jazzing up for the movies, but British director Daniel Barber labors to impress with his Southern period thriller “The Keeping Room.”

Sometime during the war, two sisters, Augusta (Brit Marling) and Louise (Hailee Steinfeld), are holed up in the family homestead with a slave, Mad (Muna Otaru). The men are long gone, and soon enough the three must reckon with a predatory pair of Union soldiers (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller). The louts notice Augusta when she journeys out for medicine, and their nighttime siege of the three women dominates the film.

Rather than a credible historical setting, the deserted wartime landscape is more a backdrop for drawn-out showdowns and portentous moments, broken up by an overbearing score.

Movie Review

‘The Keeping Room,’ with Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller. Directed by Daniel Barber, from a screenplay by Julia Hart. 94 minutes. Rated R for strong violence including a sexual assault. SIFF Film Center.

The New York Times does not provide star ratings with reviews.

Barber can work up a fair sense of menace, but he seems to have directed most of the talented cast to speak their lines in a mannered fashion learned from other movies. Mad is an especially unfortunate font of homespun wisdom, and when she finally delivers a shattering monologue, the effect is lost through its self-conscious staging.