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

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

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.