“A man cannot unsee the truth.”
A Cure for Wellness, directed by Gore Verbinski (known for Pirates of the Caribbean) is a psychological thriller that follows Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), a young businessman who is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic yet mysterious “wellness center” far off in the Swiss Alps. Lodged there by a leg injury, he is treated by a stoic overseer (Jason Isaacs) and his staff alongside other patients, including an innocent girl (Mia Goth) of ominous significance, with treatments that raise suspicion. Horrific secrets unravel, his sanity goes beyond its limits, and he longs for the truth amidst an overwhelming hope for a cure. These ideas put together a surreal film that is, from a graphical standpoint, not made for the faint of heart.
Giving the viewer a lengthy runtime, pacing itself, and having a poetically inclined script, this film is reminiscent of dystopian literature. Each scene feels like a mystery being unwound across the pages of a gripping novel. Despite the occasional hiccups in pacing that could be explained by Lockhart’s mental instability, it is a satisfying, slow-burning shock fest. Vulnerability has a role, with control being surrendered for unsettling storytelling. It was hard to tell who is holding the reins, and it makes it terrifying.
These ideas are coupled with a unique script. Lines are slightly dramatized, yet full of meaning, giving them a thought-invoking quality. So much of it is quotable. Symbolism is meanwhile in abundance. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you’ll have a field day with this one.
Onto the filmmaking tidbits, I need to address the elephant in the room. Cinematography direction in A Cure for Wellness (handled by Bojan Bazelli) is exceptional. The vast majority of the shots are stunningly perfect. It is truly a visual feast. Music in the film (composed by Benjamin Wallfisch) is fitting and effective, and the score has plenty of memorable themes. When was the last time you could say that? It’s certainly been a while. Sound editing is quite good, and of course, the visuals were superb, but there was a handful of questionable CGI choices (especially with certain animals).
This is a film that has received wildly mixed reviews, and it is somewhat clear to see why. Whether audiences were offset by disturbing imagery, unimpressed by dramatic lines, or bogged down by its pacing, this movie is not for everyone. With that said, the horror genre has begun to make a comeback in 2017, and A Cure for Wellness is no exception. It is unsettling, confusing, and most importantly, worthy of another viewing to uncover its deepening themes. It has a lot to say, but for some, it’s too much.
A Cure for Wellness is unique, different from many other movies out there, and that too can be repulsing to an audience that has a predisposed notion of what a thriller should be. Lovers of film, in general, will surely appreciate the fresh take, and there are plenty of moviegoers who will have a phenomenal ride. Prepare for a gradual unraveling. Prepare for shots that defy the norm. Prepare for a rare experience of thought and oddities. In a world of reboots and sequels, it’s crucial to support originality. If you happen to find yourself in the theater in the coming weeks, give this one a try.
Written by Sean Chronister.