The adventuresome Mike Figgis (The Loss of Sexual Innocence) has fashioned an intense screen adaptation of August Strindberg's play. This rendition by Helen Cooper takes place in the spacious kitchen of a wealthy count's estate in Sweden during Midsummer Eve festivities in 1894. Christine (Maria Doyle Kennedy), the cook, awaits the arrival of Jean (Peter Mullan), the footman and her fiance. When he does arrive, his attention is immediately focused on Miss Julie (Saffron Burrows), the Count's attractive, aggressive, and domineering daughter. In a long and dangerous dance of desire and hate, the servant and the aristocrat torment each other.
Miss Julie has just broken off her engagement to be married and is feeling depressed. A little drunk, she throws herself at Jean who has kept a lustful and envious eye upon her for years. Miss Julie's hatred of men is deepened after he crudely forces herself upon her. Shortly afterwards, Jean asks his mistress to steal money from her father's room. He has fantasies of their fleeing to Italy together and running a hotel.
Shot on super-16mm film with handheld cameras, Miss Julie vividly conveys the back and forth power plays of the two protagonists. Peter Mullan, last seen in Ken Loach's My Name Is Joe comes across with a visceral and memorable performance as Jean, the lower-class snob with big dreams. Saffron Burrows registers strongly as the self-destructive, unbalanced, and lonely Miss Julie.