Carey Mulligan (28 May 1985 -)
It’s hard to believe but Carey Mulligan has been gracing our screens for just eleven years since her debut as Kitty Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (2005). Since then she’s appeared in a number of high profile, and high quality movies that have earned critical approval – both for the movies themselves and for Mulligan’s performances – and she’s earned a reputation as one of today’s most intelligent and captivating actresses. She’s adept at playing strong-willed heroines such as Bathsheba Everdene in Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), and was en pointe as the vivacious and mysterious Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013). Some people may still only know her as the potential Time Lord companion, Sally Sparrow, in an episode of Doctor Who back in 2007, but that’s just another indication of how much of an impact she can have when given the right role. Here are five other performances that show off Mulligan’s skills as an actress, and five movies where her appearance has benefitted them greatly.
Never Let Me Go (2010) – Character: Kathy H
In this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s prize-winning novel, Mulligan is one of a group of friends whose lives aren’t quite what they seem, and who go on the run when they discover just what it is they’ve been “chosen” for. Mulligan got the role of Kathy after the producers spent quite some time trying to find an actress suitable for the role, but this is one of her best performances: honest, insightful, and haunting. The movie may have divided critics and audiences alike, but the effectiveness of Mulligan’s portrayal is one of the few things in the movie that can’t be denied.
An Education (2009) – Character: Jenny Mellor
Another adaptation, this time of the memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber, An Education sees Mulligan playing sixteen year old Jenny, a bright, intelligent schoolgirl who finds herself seduced by Peter Sarsgaard’s charming con man. It’s a coming of age tale that sees Mulligan display a range of feelings and emotions that engender a tremendous amount of sympathy for the character, especially when the extent of her naïve behaviour has unfortunate consequences. Mulligan was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal (but didn’t win), and won a BAFTA instead; not bad for what was only her second, proper lead role.
Shame (2011) – Character: Sissy Sullivan
In Steve McQueen’s powerful drama, Mulligan is the troubled, disturbed sister of Michael Fassbender’s sex addict, a role she invests with such an intense, emotionally charged air of futility that it’s hard to look away when she’s on screen. It’s a raw, unflinching performance, one that matches Fassbender’s own for the depths to which she takes the character, and there’s a fearlessness that is astonishing to watch. It’s a testament to Mulligan’s immersive portrayal that she is never less than credible from beginning to end. And she has a great singing voice too.
The Greatest (2009) – Character: Rose
2009 was Mulligan’s breakout year, with An Education and this emotionally adroit drama about a family trying to deal with the unexpected death of their son, helping to put Mulligan “on the map”. While parents Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan come to terms with their loss, they also find themselves dealing with Mulligan’s character, who turns up on their doorstep and tells them that she’s pregnant with their son’s child. The movie’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, and is a little uneven in places, but Mulligan’s fragile, emotionally uncertain Rose is the strong focus that ties all the elements together into a (mostly) satisfying whole.
Drive (2011) – Character: Irene
In Nicolas Winding Refn’s hard-boiled, occasionally wince-inducing crime drama, Mulligan is the love interest for Ryan Gosling’s taciturn stunt car (and sometime getaway) driver. But this being a Refn movie, the term “love interest” isn’t as generic as it sounds, as Mulligan makes Irene more than just a predictable foil for the “hero”, and helps make the audience root for their relationship. Mulligan portrays Irene as good-natured and helpless – on the surface – but there’s an underlying steeliness that Gosling’s driver responds to, and Mulligan accentuates the character’s dual nature without being obvious about it – and that’s an achievement all by itself.