Thursday, September 15, 2005


Posted on Thu, Sep 15, 2005 at 4:00 AM

Studio: Paramount Classics
Rated: R
Release Date: 2005-09-16
Cast: Natasha Richardson, Marton Csokas, Ian McKellen, Hugh Bonneville, Joss Ackland
Director: David MacKenzie
Screenwriter: Patrick Marber
Music Score: Mark Mancina
WorkNameSort: Asylum
Our Rating: 1.00

Despite its febrile themes of murder, suicide and violent psychosis – and the presence of an oft-nude Natasha Richardson – director David Mackenzie's Asylum is so obsessed with rendering Patrick McGrath's exquisitely twisted Gothic novel as a refined affair that it forgets less ambitious pursuits, like sussing out a way to keep us awake.

Basically, the movie is about how the privileged suffer (much more poetically than you or I) and how the poor, though they might be worth a passing fuck, are pretty much disposable nuisances. That probably isn't the best theme to present right now, though context isn't the film's fault. Nevertheless it's got faults aplenty.

Richardson zombie-otically underplays Stella, a sexually repressed wife in a barren marriage to a psychiatrist, Max (Hugh Bonneville). Max has taken a position at a psychiatric facility run by the highly mysterious Dr. Cleave (Ian McKellen, in rare phoned-in performance). Stella has an affair with a rakish inmate/starving artist/ex-wife killer named Edgar (Marton Csokas). The idea that pursuing such a strapping nutjob will lead Stella to living like a filthy commoner is high among the film's list of horrific possibilities.

Anyway, all hell breaks loose (politely, please – we're British). At one juncture of apparently unspeakable tragedy, Max loses his job and is forced to take a position at a facility in Wales, which also necessitates his making do with a country home. The poor bastard.

Considering the film's title and settings, it's almost self-referentially perverse in its nitwitted portrayal of mental aberration, a depiction that ranges from the clueless to the downright nonsensical. As Mackenzie never bothers to come up with a cinematic substitute for McGrath's intimate, third-person voice, we're left adrift regarding Edgar's violent mood swings, encouraged to tut-tut the bizarre behavior of his destitute flatmate while Dr. Cleave – whose lust for Stella is an essential plot point – endures an inexplicable, final-reel implication that it's Edgar he really fancies.

Asylum does move at a brisk clip, but the tactful pacing itself becomes a source of monotony. Ironically for a filmmaker whose movie is centered on morbidity, Mackenzie shows a sure way with the tossed-off bon mot. But in a project dealing with festering psychological disintegration, he would have been smart to slow down and smell the decay.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation