Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ pitch-black film about palace intrigue in early 1700s England features award-worthy performances by all three actresses topping the cast.

Lady Sarah and Queen Anne have had quite a spat.

To patch things up, Lady Sarah begins to write a letter.

She begins: “I dreamt I stabbed you in the eye.”

Welcome to “The Favourite,” director Yorgos Lanthimos’ pitch-black comedy about palace intrigue in early 1700s England. The story, based on real historical characters, focuses on a romantic triangle, and power struggle, involving mentally and physically unstable Queen Anne (Olivia Colman); her best friend, confidant and de-facto decision-maker Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz); and Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone), a former aristocrat reduced to becoming a scullery maid because of family misfortune.

When Abigail arrives at the queen’s palace, she’s desperate to improve her station, first through Lady Sarah, and later by ingratiating herself with Queen Anne. She observes the hold Lady Sarah has on the whiny, childlike queen, and the power she wields as a result. Abigail resolves to take Lady Sarah’s place as the monarch’s “favorite.”

In many ways this is a period-piece “All About Eve.” (I thought I was very clever to notice this, until I just read a quote from Stone suggesting the same thing.)

“All About Eve” was set in the world of theater, with Anne Baxter’s seemingly innocent fan Eve conniving to replace Bette Davis’ petulant diva Margo Channing as the reigning star of Broadway. Here Abigail plays the kind, supportive soul in contrast to the blunt, uncompromising Lady Sarah, who refuses to lie to Queen Anne and at one point tells her that her makeup makes her “look like a badger.” Like Margo with Eve, Lady Sarah sees through Abigail, however, and the battle lines are drawn.

Greek director Lanthimos is no stranger to dark material. Compared to his films “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “The Lobster,” “The Favourite” seems downright cheery. But there’s the same underlying misanthropy of the previous films here, along with a self-conscious cynicism. In the world of “The Favourite,” kindness and decency are in short supply (though the usually self-consumed queen is kind to her collection of rabbits). Even minor characters exhibit at least a streak of cruelty. This is a cold-hearted film about cold-hearted people.

But it does have its compensations. It makes its points about the vagaries of politics, romance and social standing; about the pursuit of power; about how sex can be used as a tool and a weapon. Plus there are the funny bits of dialogue, the elaborate period costumes and production design, the suspense and lack of predictability regarding who will prevail, the chilling finale, and, most of all, the award-worthy performances by all three actresses topping the cast.

“The Favourite” has a lot of intelligence and wit – just no heart.