FILM REVIEW: A Cure For Wellness

A Cure For Wellness

This is a film with a lot of ambition, and that ambition can be felt from the very first scene where we pan over beautifully photographed images of skyscrapers towering into the sky.

A Cure for Wellness is the latest film from director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), and stars Dane Dehaan as a young, selfish executive at a nameless financial firm who is chosen to go to Sweden to retrieve the company’s CEO from a wellness center after they receive a mysterious letter from him.

From the beginning, it is clear that something is not right with the people at this firm. One of them has a heart attack, they are all pale and overworked, rude, and pursuing selfish interests that ultimately are meaningless and unfulfilling. Dehaan’s character, Lockhart, admits that he hasn’t slept well in years. In the words of the film, he is not well. Verbinski sets himself up to make a grand point about humanity and its values, and to many he will probably seem to fall short.

Convincing his CEO to return with him proves a more difficult task than Lockhart wants. He arrives after visiting hours and is told he must wait until the following day to speak with his boss. Undeterred, Lockhart begins digging, exploring, and looking around the facility. He quickly learns from the other patients that this place has a history. Centuries ago, a Baron lived in the castle like estate, and convicted of incest, his townspeople rose up and brutally murdered him and his family.

Eventually, Lockhart is able to meet with his boss, only to have him mysteriously disappear. Lockhart tries to flee, but gets into a car accident, and wakes up with a broken leg back in the wellness center, now a patient himself. “There is darkness in this place,” one of the patients tells him. Something strange is certainly going on, and some viewers will be frustrated with the time it takes to start figuring things out (nothing significant is revealed until around the two hour mark). This leads to one of the film’s bigger issues: the time. A Cure For Wellness is two hours and twenty six minutes long, and it could certainly be shortened a whole half an hour and tell the same story.

The cinematography is beautiful, but there are a lot of disturbing images and gross out scenes that will make it hard for many to sit through with their eyes open. A Cure for Wellness is certainly not for everyone, but it is a unique and original story with echoes of other famous films such as Shutter Island and, more recently, Stonehearst Asylum.

There is a lot to love about this movie, the score is absolutely gorgeous, the story is masterfully crafted to build suspense and keep the viewer guessing, and Verbinski raises some interesting questions about the nature of humanity. But many viewers will find the ending unsatisfying and the length tiring, this film is definitely flawed, but its flaws do not diminish its potential as a cult classic. Some may not feel “well” after the long and insane journey into the mysterious depths of the wellness center, others may feel that it hits just the right spot, and like many characters in the film, feel like proclaiming “I’m feeling much better.”

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