Asylum

"Weak"

Asylum Review


A mid-20th-century bodice-ripper about sexual obsession and questionable sanity, "Asylum" doesn't live up to its admirable pedigree.

Adapted by Patrick Marber ("Closer") from a novel by Patrick McGrath ("Spider"), directed by David Mackenzie ("Young Adam") and featuring a stellar cast of gifted British actors, the film has yearning and buttoned-down 1950s atmosphere to spare, but fails to turn its foolish heroine into an empathetic or understandable character.

Natasha Richardson plays Stella, a restless woman whose polite, passionless marriage begets dangerous ennui when her husband (Hugh Bonneville) takes a post as deputy director of a psychiatric hospital in rural England. Feeling trapped on the hospital grounds and uncomfortable in the clique-ish sewing circle of doctors' wives, she begins a heated affair with an outwardly stable inmate and former sculptor named Edgar (Marton Csokas, "The Bourne Supremacy") who works as a groundskeeper and has befriended her young son.

The fact that he brutally murdered his wife over a perceived betrayal doesn't seem even to give her pause. Although aggressiveness, jealousy and anger boil just below his barely placid exterior, Stella forges on -- to the detriment of her family and her own sanity -- even after Edgar escapes and takes up residence in an abandoned London warehouse.

Soon she's scared, tired, isolated, and lonely, and without treatment Edgar's psychoses are popping out all over -- so predictably, things go from bad to worse to tragic.

Richardson finds emotional authenticity in Stella's downward spiral, but it's hard to identify with a woman who would value an affair with a wife-butchering nutcase over her responsibilities as mother, let alone feel sorry for her when her lover turns more and more irrational and easily enraged. (Csokas does a perfectly chilling slow burn in the weeks that follow his character's escape.)

But the film's larger problem is that while it has plenty of tension, Stella's wheels are locked in one direction, and waiting for her to careen over an emotional cliff just isn't that interesting. For all Richardson's turmoil, two subtler performances are far more nuanced and distinctive.

Bonneville, in the thankless role of the bamboozled dullard husband, provides a strong unspoken sense that he's always known Stella was likely to stray -- and may have done so before -- but that he's at a complete loss for how he could save their marriage, let alone save her from herself. But Ian McKellan gives the most mesmerizing turn, playing the hospital's sly and manipulative head shrink, an expert in sexual deviancy (for whatever that was worth in the pre-Kinsey era) whose own dodgy predilections percolate behind snake-like eyes and prim, charming mannerisms.

In its last act, "Asylum" builds to what seems like a sudden climax, which packs a real punch, but until then the film and the characters are far more frustrating than fascinating.



Asylum

Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th September 2005

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as McGahey, as Sharp

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.