Sofia Coppola’s latest is a lucid sketch of a young woman's universal growing pains under extraordinary circumstances

Film Review by Stefania Sarrubba | 21 Dec 2023
  • Priscilla
Film title: Priscilla
Director: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi
Release date: 5 Jan
Certificate: 15

It’s hard to imagine another filmmaker taking on the bullet train coming-of-age of Priscilla Beaulieu. Once again Sofia Coppola captures the otherworldliness of being a teenage girl, infusing this real-life story with empathy as it follows our reluctant heroine as she embarks on a controversial, hyper-scrutinised romance. 

Inspired by Priscilla Presley’s memoir Elvis and MePriscilla charts the 14-year-old protagonist’s isolation at a military base in Germany, which morphs into a different type of loneliness back in the States. Tiptoeing around the grandiose halls of Graceland, Priscilla (Spaeny) timidly makes her desires known and is repeatedly shut down by the man who professes to love her, played with charisma and fragility by Jacob Elordi. 

The rockstar moulds the girl into the glamorous wife he deems fit for the King, with Priscilla’s petite figure emboldened by bigger ‘dos, darker hair and dramatic eyelashes. An impressive Spaeny turns breathing into Priscilla’s subtle emotional outlet, adoringly gasping for oxygen in Elvis’s presence only to exhale in fear after one of his violent outbursts. Quietly yet steadily, Coppola nurtures that imperceptible breath into a stubborn murmur, an assertive voice, a frustrated scream. 

Flawlessly soundtracked till the final, ineluctable song, the film focuses on Priscilla’s tumultuous feelings as she dives into her first crush, but doesn’t fail to reveal the bars of this impossible relationship’s gilded cage. While Priscilla tones down a rape detailed in the book, it's peppered throughout by brilliantly gut-punching scenes highlighting how the couple’s age gap wasn’t just jarring, but also bound to tear them apart.

Released 1 Jan by MUBI; certificate 15