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Some loves can never let you go.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (after also starring together in Silver Linings Playbook) are Serena and George Pemberton, a married couple in 1920s North Carolina, who ruthlessly attempt to build a timber empire. Based on the 2008 novel by Ron Rash, directed by multi award-winning Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier (In a Better World).

The burgeoning entrepreneurs vanquish all who stand in the way of their ambitions. When Serena learns that she can never bear a child, she sets out to murder the woman who bore George a son before his marriage. And when she starts to suspect that George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage begins to unravel.


Directed by

Written by



Rating: M Violence & sex scenes

USA, Czech Republic

After Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, how could reteaming Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper go wrong? In a word – Serena. So much of a stinker it veers on parody (a la The Spoils of Babylon), this 1920s-set tale sees A-list stars brought to bear on a one hell of a turkey, a costume drama that fails to find its footing as either a detailed period piece or fantastical romance. Instead, it’s closer to tacky mini-series in tone than Hollywood elegance, even if the production values struggle vainly to suggest otherwise.

Inside the first ten minutes a few boxes get ticked – a shirtless Cooper; Lawrence’s lovely locks bouncing beautifully in slow motion while horse riding – and they’re quickly established as a couple within fifteen. But already some strange stuff is afoot. Cooper’s wonky accent as timber magnate George Pemberton; long discussions about stocks and capital; his jealous second-in-command, presumable interest in Cooper suggested by an extensive cravat collection. This early flurry of oddness is capped off by Lawrence winning over rough loggers by displaying, wait for it, a talent for falconry, personally deploying an eagle to purge the lumber site of rattlesnakes.

If this all sounds silly, it is. But what stops Serena from sliding into so-bad-it’s-good territory is the film’s sluggish pacing, confusing start-stop subplots, and vastly uneven tone. Is it a socio-political drama? A romance? A tale that provides Lawrence with a psychic killer henchman? It’s sort of all these things, but no matter how absurd it gets, right up to its laughable final shot of Cooper, Serena struggles to be watchable via any interpretation of its confused content.

Empire (UK)


Commercially it looks a disaster. Artistically, if very far from a triumph, it’s interesting, almost held together by its charismatic stars.

Time Out London


We don’t invest anything in either character, and with barely any tension, Serena grabs neither head nor heart.

Hollywood Reporter


It is difficult to believe a single word of it, still less to care about these relentlessly selfish and short-sighted characters.

Variety (USA)


Both problematic and fascinating, an unsympathetic spiral of human tragedy that plays a little like a hand-me-down folk ballad put to film.

Guardian (UK)


The film crumples with a shower of sparks into a forest fire of melodramatic absurdity, with all kinds of violent lurches and plot entanglements. But not before Lawrence has given us a performance of fierce, bladed intensity.

Total Film (UK)


Handsome production values notwithstanding, Bier's drama is all bark and largely trite.