Seven Days of Streaming

Seven Days of Streaming: The Piercing Empathy of Carey Mulligan

With The Dig now available on Netflix, here's how to curate your own Carey Mulligan 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.

Few actors can master a “show, don’t tell” performance quite like Carey Mulligan. Never one to burst into tears or screams, or crumble in despair, the actress bottles an ocean of feeling and holds it in, cutting through the silence, the tension, with nothing more than a look – a wince, a frown, a sigh.

The British actress feels like a staple of our contemporary cinematic language, yet has only been working onscreen for just over 15 years. Her characters are subtly antithetical women, often conveying longing and resentment and fire without saying a word. But she can play fun, too: literary figures we’ve known the names of for centuries, reintroduced as calmly independent beings; wry New Yorkers from the minds of Steve McQueen and the Coens, rattled and exhausted by the incompetence of disappointing men.

And with every next role, Mulligan is brand new. Not in a way that makes you yell from the rooftops (although, we often should), but in a way that makes you realise she has silently touched a nerve and connected with something – a feeling, a fear, a value – you haven’t dared to look at in years.

This is by no means the only combination of films capable of showcasing Mulligan’s complex brilliance – hers is a career that you can tell is masterfully curated, always looking to surprise you – but with The Dig out on Netflix today and Promising Young Woman looming on the horizon (two more wildly different titles showcasing her endless talent), here are seven curious and compelling titles to celebrate just how far Carey Mulligan has come…


Day 1: Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Kitty Bennet is rarely in the spotlight in Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, and even less so in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation focusing on Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Bennet. The role, as the fourth of the five Bennet sisters, marked Mulligan’s big screen debut, and saw her display a fizzy disposition as the bubbly sister in the shadow of the youngest Bennet, Lydia (Jena Malone), vying for all the officers’ attention. Kitty is loyal and loving, valuing her sisters’ opinions and tastes more than anything else. Bringing empathy and energy to what’s arguably a small role, Mulligan firmly proved she would be capable of much bigger things.


Day 2: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Mulligan can be loyal, but her independence also knows no bounds. Thomas Vinterberg would give her the chance to prove this as Bathsheba Everdene in a new take on Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, as a headstrong woman who inherits her uncle's farm, and who has a total control over her career and emotional makeup – which is then unsettled by three very different suitors all competing for her affection. It’s a treat to see Mulligan adjust her feelings according to each man: guarded and cautious one minute, gently dizzy with reckless excitement the next, frustrated and uncertain throughout. It’s a rich role, never overplayed, and one that perfectly taps into Mulligan’s multifaceted self-determination.


Day 3: Shame (2011)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

There is a troubling, magnetic allure to Mulligan’s Sissy Sullivan in Steve McQueen's haunting Shame. She is the sister of Brandon – an executive, bachelor and sex addict played by Michael Fassbender – who upends his life as she desperately needs his help to re-balance hers. Shame marked the moment that Mulligan proved she could be volatile and corrosive while still maintaining a sense of fragility. Also, it was the first time we saw just how beautifully she could sing. One scene has McQueen frame Sissy, a lounge singer, performing an almost a cappella rendition of “New York, New York,” and the camera seldom leaves her face. She’s ever so gently swaying, yet every time her glance shifts it feels like a lightning bolt. She’s somewhat composed – much more than during the rest of the film – but still so desperate and scared, in dire need of love. What follows is a terrifying, tragic turn of events, anchored by Mulligan’s meticulous sense of empathy.


Day 4: Drive (2011)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

A lesser star would have done very little with the character of Irene, the next-door neighbour of an unnamed driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s neo-noir Drive – but Mulligan packs a lifetime of relationships and disappointments and fears into a single look, quietly holding her own against Ryan Gosling. Irene is a woman of few words; this performance is all about listening, watching, feeling. There’s a slap, there’s a kiss, there’s a drive. In the elevator scene, there’s violence like never before. Mulligan seems so small, physically, but every time Winding Refn takes a second to focus in on her face, everything else seems to melt away. She freezes you in her gaze, your heart sure to break long before her stare.

Day 5: The Great Gatsby (2013)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

It’s one of the greatest forbidden love stories put to the page: Daisy Buchanan reunites with Jay Gatsby after he returns from war, hosting the most extravagant parties, always hoping she’ll turn up. Mulligan captures Daisy’s enigmatic fragility with such grace, showing her secretive desire for Jay and her terrifying loyalty to her husband, who isn’t Jay, with immense power. There’s an elegance and glamour to her as well, one obviously reflective of Fitzgerald’s – and Baz Luhrmann’s, in turn – penchant for all that glitters hiding a hollow, echoey sense of grief beneath the surface. Daisy can be seen as weak, her decisions often callous and confusing, but Mulligan invites you to understand them. To empathise with the overwhelming and unknowable feelings that come with a lifetime of love and loss.


Day 6: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

If anyone was going to give Carey Mulligan the chance to show that, on top of everything else, she could be deliciously wry and witty, it would be the Coen Brothers. Inside Llewyn Davis casts Mulligan as Jean, begrudgingly dealing with the consequences of being previously romantically – or, at least, sexually – involved with Oscar Isaac’s eponymous struggling folk singer. There’s a bitterness to her character that allows for more playfulness than ever, not mocking Jean or Llewyn, but finally letting herself shake off that chip on her shoulder just a bit more. Her performance never loses its wisdom though, and is by the end of the film one you still want to mourn. That’s the thing with Mulligan – you’re always laughing with her, frowning with her. She always makes you care.


Day 7: Wildlife (2018)

Where to watch it: Various streaming services

Wildlife feels like the culmination of the contradictions Mulligan has been feeding throughout her career to date. Jeanette Brinson is raising a son and losing her marriage, as the Great Falls of Montana give her more claustrophobia than freedom, with the prospect of a new home and a world of possibilities. Her life to date asks her to be a mother and wife first, woman second – which, as we soon see, is obviously the wrong order. Having been deprived of this independence, of the spontaneity and seduction that comes with it, the belated results, as Jeanette flirts and tries to find herself, can be bitter and ugly. It’s not what we’re used to – and Mulligan plays that perfectly. You can tell Jeanette is all broken up inside, pieces of her heart rattling around her chest. Yet she must look whole, always. For her boys, for her audience. Again, as is traditional, there’s little in Mulligan that visibly shatters. But the wreckage is more potent than ever.

The Dig is now streaming on Netflix. Promising Young Woman is scheduled for release in 2021.

Other Features

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Little Women to Sergio Leone

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Coppola to Cross of Iron

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital

20 Best Films of 2023 (So Far)

With the year at the halfway point, our writers choose their favourite films, from daring documentaries to box office bombs

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Mistress America to The Man Who Wasn’t There

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital


The Innocent review – 60s-inspired heist movie with an existential twist

In his fourth feature film, writer-director Louis Garrel explores with wit and tenderness the risk and worth of second chances

Baato review – Nepal’s past and future collide in an immersive, fraught documentary

A mountain trek intertwines with a road-building project, granting incisive, if underpowered, insight into a much underseen world

The Beanie Bubble review – a grim new low for the “corporate biopic” genre

With none of the saving graces of Tetris, Air, or Barbie, this ambition-free look at the Beanie Baby craze is pure mediocrity

Everybody Loves Jeanne review – thoroughly modern fable of grief, romantic confusion, and climate anxiety

Celine Deveaux's French-Portuguese debut can be too quirky for its own good, but a fantastically written lead character keeps it afloat