Somewhere in the elegance and luxury of 18th century England, Yorgos Lanthimos has uncovered a grotesque social underbelly. It exists not in the villages of the poverty-stricken or the back alleys of seedy tradesmen, but in the very corridors that surround Queen Anne, who has taken ill and depends on the council of devoted servants that are intoxicated by their own prestige. In many cases, they also seem destined to break all notions of social code, and there is a scene early on that exemplifies this: Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), the queen’s closest consort, exchanges barbs with Harley (Nicholas Hoult) about the trajectory of war with France. He is opposed to it, but her venomous gaze seems to revel in his protest. Is she doing it because she believes in approving excessively high land taxes, or is she getting off on her own grip of the power hammer? What makes that scene, and so many others, so utterly biting is how the characters treat the concept of speech. It is a weapon against influence, not a bridge to understanding it. And for two hours we pause and watch as public formalities spill over into private sessions filled with scheming and cruelty, as if destinies are written from the blood and tears of the betrayed. At some point a background figure among them proves to be the most menacing of all: someone who will come to play at the table like a pupil silently undermining its teacher, even if it may be at the cost of more than just mere loyalties.