Seven Days of Streaming

Seven Days of Streaming: The Strange Allure of Anya Taylor-Joy

Liked The Queen's Gambit? From The Witch to Thoroughbreds, here's how to curate your own Anya Taylor-Joy season at home in seven key films

In Seven Days of Streaming, we guide you in curating your own mini film season based around an actor or director with a particularly eclectic, underseen, or unappreciated filmography, spun over seven days of programming.

The first thing you notice is the eyes. Huge, expressive, and in her own words, “too far apart.” Yet, with the phenomenally talented Anya Taylor-Joy, there's a sense that the eyes might just be the key to the entire puzzle; that her strange and singular allure stems from an ability to channel every emotion into those mysterious dark pools.

If you happened to catch Anya Taylor-Joy in basically any movie over the last five years, chances are you were struck by the idea of her inevitable future success. Now, with the arrival of Netflix's compulsive new chess-based mini-series The Queen's Gambit, Taylor-Joy has been exposed to what is arguably her largest audience yet. And, obviously, she's received massive praise for her performance as child prodigy Beth Harmon, a quiet orphan who goes onto become an unexpected chess phenomenon at the height of the Cold War.

Taylor-Joy is particularly adept at playing a certain type of ambiguity; characters whose motives are often unclear – but she projects a natural confidence and charisma, too. At just 24, the future looks brighter than bright: not only will she appear as the lead in Edgar Wright's London-set yarn Last Night in Soho, she was recently confirmed to play the younger version of Charlize Theron's character in George Miller's Mad Max prequel Furiosa. It's a role that's sure to launch her to household name status.

Until then, here are the seven films you need to see to get up-to-date with her impressive film career so far…

 

Day 1: The Witch (2015)

Where to watch it: Various streaming options

The debut film from Robert Eggers (The Lighthouse) instantly confirmed him as a master of modern horror. But this creepy folk tale wouldn't have worked anywhere near as well without Anya Taylor-Joy's performance as the young Yorkshire lass whose family are plagued by a malevolent force in 17th century America. Eggers, as though knowing he has struck gold, opens the film directly on a close-up of Taylor-Joy's face. From there, adopting a quiet Northern accent, she plays into a mysteriousness that has carried through her body of work ever since, her eyes – because it is always about the eyes – painting a thousand possibilities, gifting the film with a thrilling ambiguity. Her character, Thomasin, feels both innocent and extremely dangerous; for a film that relies entirely on our not knowing what to believe or where to stand, her casting comes to feel like a stroke of genius.

 

Day 2: Barry (2016)

Where to watch it: Netflix

There’s something a little formulaic and cookie cutter to this coming-of-age drama about the Young Barack Obama, a film with so little cultural legacy that Bill Hader went ahead and gave his TV show the same title and nobody even blinked an eye. But this is also, actually, an endearing portrait of youth, featuring a fine performance from Devon Terrell as the future President, who moves to New York and must come to terms with big city life and his own identity while attending Columbia. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Charlotte, his very forthright and very likeable girlfriend, a composite character based on Obama's love interests at the time. We know who Barry ends up with, of course – but this is a very charming and assured performance from Taylor-Joy, even if it does feel like Barack's cheating on Michelle.

 

Day 3: Split (2016)

Where to watch it: Various streaming options

A year after The Witch dropped in theatres, Taylor-Joy appeared as American teen Casey Cooke in M. Night Shyamalan's split personality horror-thriller Split – a one-two-punch that instantly granted her “Scream Queen” status. But what could have been a relatively standardised teen-in-peril performance works instead as a brilliant showcase of the actor's easy charisma, especially when juxtaposed with her work on The Witch. Here, she adopts a flawless American accent (the fact that she's British, American and also Argentinian is probably the reason she's so good at changing her voice) and delivers a quietly subversive take on the “Final Girl” who you can't help but root for right from the start.

 

Day 4: Thoroughbreds (2017)

Where to watch it: Various streaming options

In this unknowable but fascinating spin on the coming-of-ager from Bad Education filmmaker Cory Finley, Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke play two “friends” who hatch a plan to murder one of their step-fathers. Why isn't really the point. Instead it's more about watching this great duo working the angles, trying to gain the upper hand – maybe because they're bored, maybe because they're just a couple of sociopaths. Here Taylor-Joy inhabits her coldest character to date: a strangely ethereal WASP with hidden desires and a tendency towards ruthlessness. But she also displays a real knack for deadpan comic timing. Even if the film leaves you scratching your head, wondering what it's all about, this icy cool performances stands as a thrilling testament to Taylor-Joy's impressive range.

Day 5: Glass (2019)

Where to watch it: Various streaming options

Taylor-Joy's Casey Cooke returns for this surprise sequel to Split that also doubles as a belated follow-up to M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable. Her character doesn't feature quite as much in this story; instead she moves in the peripherals of what is essentially a showdown between Bruce Willis' David Dunn, Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass, and James McAvoy's The Beast. Yet she still manages to make an impression as the human character caught up in this crazy world. This is also your chance to catch what is perhaps one of last year's most underrated films – a fascinating anti-sequel that refuses to oblige your expectations (and proof that Bruce Willis is still capable of the occasional solid performance).

 

Day 6: Radioactive (2019)

Where to watch it: Various streaming options

I must preface this entry with a disclaimer, because Radioactive is such a strange movie and there's a good chance you'll watch it and wonder why you did. A biopic of sorts, it stars the always-wonderful Rosamund Pike as famed scientist Marie Curie, and features yet another excellent performance from Anya Taylor-Joy in a supporting role, playing Marie's daughter Irène (also something of a genius). While Radioactive is a bit all over the place and is marred by an unusual narrative structure, it's worth viewing as a showcase for Taylor-Joy's innate ability to light up an entire film with limited screen time. It's a small part, but she makes a big impression.

 

Day 7: Emma. (2020)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Autumn de Wilde's Emma. is the latest take on Jane Austen's indelible classic, which imbues the source material with a more heightened tone and pairs it with a garish colour scheme. I can give or take the film, but at the heart of this self-aware rendition is Taylor-Joy's pitch-perfect performance as Emma Woodhouse. She's brilliantly cast as the titular meddler, ideally placed somewhere between irksome and endearing. Here, too, is the proof that this formidable actor is more than capable of taking the reigns in a film's leading role, a skill that Taylor-Joy puts forward to great effect in The Queen's Gambit, where she delivers what might be her greatest and most nuanced performance to date. If you're yet to catch it, what are you waiting for?

The Queen's Gambit is now streaming on Netflix.

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