In Depression-era North Carolina, Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) fights to keep his flailing logging business afloat in order to make enough money to start a new life in Brazil with his enigmatic new wife, Serena (Jennifer Lawrence).

The town sheriff is suspicious of Pemberton's dirty dealings and increasing pressure to make the area a national park sees the ambitious businessman turn to his wife for increasingly destructive support and direction.

Serena is billed as a period drama centred around the bleak prospects of a small town and all those trapped within it. In reality it's a more sophisticated character study of the deeply complicated title role herself. The Depression era setting is really an extended metaphor for the inescapable darkness of Serena's damaged personality.

Having suffered a soul stamping tragedy as a child and left unable to love (by her own admission) each new opportunity or friendly face is terminated by her manipulative neediness and, eventually, brute force.

Her one genuine connection is with the curmudgeonly Galloway (Rhys Ifans) an equally disturbed and quietly menacing character who tends to her every warped whim like a loyal lap dog.

What at first seems a perfect union between Pemberton and Serena horrifyingly unravels as each turn to competitively desperate measures to get what they need. A quiet, slow burning watch.