A CURE FOR WELLNESS (REVIEW)
Dir. Gore Verbinski
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
A CURE FOR WELLNESS is more than the film that classic horror fans want, it is the one we need in a time of generic B-Movie madness and franchise building mayhem comes an original slice of horror that harks back to the golden age of gothic horror. Much like the work of Del Toro, Verbinski’s modern masterpiece puts story at front and centre with the shadow of horror ever lurking in the shadows.
Before watching, A CURE FOR WELLNESS could easily be placed in comparison to SHUTTER ISLAND and STONEHEARS ASYLUM, both fantastic works set in and about a mental asylum with ambiguity on what is real and what is insanity. Up until the final third, the same can be said for this film too however the truth behind the series of unfortunate events of Lockart (Dane DeHaan) don’t ever reveal themselves until the very end spiralling the movie through a whirlwind of chaos in the most pleasant way possible.
When Lockart is sent to Switzerland to bring back a resident of a Swiss Wellness centre, his attendance ruptures the pleasant goings on at the hands of the treatment divisor, Volmer (Jason Isaacs). As things begin to go against Lockart, his suspicions of mysterious activity at the hands of the doctor become true and it’s not long before his behaviour ends him as a patient. Nothing is what it seems and as the inpatient tries to escape, the forceful nature of Volmer and his staff force him to fight back and stand for what is right, over what he believes.
At times, A CURE FOR WELLNESS is easy to get lost in. Each take has a precision that only directors like Christopher Nolan can match. Every scene a photographic still that could be a wallpaper and there is never a dull moment in the excessive 143 minute and that is mostly through how beautiful it is to watch. In doing so there are some confusing plot developments that blend an insanity inducing edge when flashing between eels, car crashes and disembowelment of animals, rest assured there’s never a dull moment and always fascinating.
There’s little in the way of jump scares, a rarity for a mainstream release, but Verbinski manages to pace tension with drama to shocking result. Both DeHaan and Isaacs are perfectly cast in their roles against captive and captor and the sensational conclusion only bolsters their twisted stories. Mia Goth as Hannah, a patient in the asylum delivers an innocence against Dehaan’s struggle and the pair manage to create a relationship that needs no explanation but goes much beyond that of romance.
Yet there is so much twisted romance at the heart of A CURE FOR WELLNESS that it’s a struggle to find that this is a monster film or a tragedy. Like THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, there’s a deeper tale to be told than the monster and the hero and Verbinski does well to balance that throughout.
The film has been through a whirlwind of negative reviews, the reality is simple, if you want something to tell you what is happening every step of the way, add audio description, this isn’t for you. This is a fantasy film that traverses as a grounded psychological horror and delves into grandiose gothic horror. Not only a triumph but a miracle that A CURE FOR WELLNESS ever got made at all. There’s so much going on here that for those after a quick watch will be disappointed, but for those willing to give the film the time it deserves, a satisfyingly brilliant piece of cinema that brings back the greatness that Hollywood can bring to the genre it has abandoned so quickly.