(There’s possible spoilers here.)
I’d like to preface this review with a story: At the recent screening of A Cure for Wellness, I wasn’t very well. I’d taken the day out of the office to work at home, I had spent the day before in a bed of pain, and had drugged myself up to struggle through this film – a movie about illness, decay, and medicine.
I bring this up because even if you’re feeling well, this film will definitely be the cure for that. And if you are feeling just the slightest bit woozy, then avoid at all costs.
A Cure for Wellness revolves around stockbroker Lockhart who is sent on a quest to find a missing colleague. Reluctant at first, Lockhart is persuaded when his new employers uncover a secret. Heading to the Swiss Alps, he comes across a Spa where residents drink water constantly, steam themselves, and have strict treatment regimes. Lockhart, however, unearths a secret about the Spa centre that may throw his whole life intro jeopardy…
On one glorious hand, Gore Verbinski’s work is a modern day Gothic play that catapults you with highly nightmarish, squeamish, and squirming images. An unraveling ghost story, Verbinski uses a keen eye and style, drench in green and browns that dissolves from a David Fincher skyscraper thriller into an underground 1800s style romp, working hard to batter your conscious with the vexing pictures it shows you. A Cure for Wellness is not a pleasant watch: It’s vile and sickening at many times. But Verbinski adds an aura of poetry to this as though Mary Shelley was turning through the same story.
The acting is superb. Dane DeHaan is a believable sickly and ambitious lead as he weaves through the conspiracy at hand. Jason Isaacs as a villain is always a great role for him, auspicious as Volmer is, and the young Mia Goth, playing a child-like character, is a great if, albeit, like a Tim Burton cartoon sprung to life…
However, on the other (vile and sleazier) hand, A Cure for Wellness is an over-long and over-baring spectacle that doesn’t know quite what type of thriller it wants to be. Starting off with a truly superb and gut-wrenching first half, it falters coming into the second and the grand finale is beyond perturbing and wacky. The movie adds a lot into the mix but doesn’t ever complete them – not truly, anyway. It’s bewildering and irritating. What’s more, you already know the twists way before Lockhart does meaning you wait almost an hour and a half for the protagonist to catch up. Infuriatingly, A Cure For Wellness could haveve tightened this up by skipping a good hour of the film to add more tension, rather than boredom.
A Cure for Wellness is a twisted combination of Shutter Island, The Shining, and Phantom of the Opera. In many aspects of this mashed together cinematic ball, this works. But rather than focus on one story, Verbinski decides to muddy the waters of the tale with stories left shallow or unexplored. Rather than dive into the depths of one tale, luring us in and slipping the macabre atmosphere that slithers throughout, he splits the film into two tales: One about curing a modern day sickness and the other about a long dead Baron and his sinister love. There’s some phenomenal ideas in both threads but, instead, two and a half hours are wasted on trying to develop them both and it is infuriating.
On a final note, you’ll certainly have this song stirring in your head for a while…
A Cure for Wellness is out 24th February!