A Cure for Wellness (2017) is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars talented actors such as Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs.
A young, successful and unscrupulous business man (Lockhart, played by DeHaan) is forced by his board of directors to move to a sanatorium in Switzerland where he has to convince an older colleague (Roland Pembroke) to come back to New York and face some serious consequences of financial frauds committed by the company.
As soon as the protagonist gets up to the hill, at the castle-like recovery centre, it seems to him that something is off, out of place and, perhaps, it will not be easy to leave the sanatorium nor to ‘rescue’ Mr. Pembroke.
Most certainly the concept of unsettling asylums filled with uneven doctors (such as the director Mr. Volmer, portrayed by Isaacs) is not new, however, in A Cure for Wellness, it’s handled in such a unique and dreadful way that is impossible not to consider this film as a stand-alone product.
Definitely, the movie is reminiscing of The Shining and Shutter Island for many aspects – the build-up is similar to the Kubrick’s masterpiece, whilst DeHaan and DiCaprio’s character in Scorsese’s film follow alike paths. Nonetheless, the plot development as well as the way Lockhart progressively discovers the secrets of the structure make for an original movie which, honestly, has no benchmark in the history of cinema.
Moreover, the visuals are simply outstanding. Verbinksi has always been a great visual director – for instance, the look and feel of The Ring, which I’m not a big fan of, are hands down the best part of that movie – and here he gets over himself, exceeding the brightest expectations. Every shot looks beautiful, the editing and camera work are immaculate and, sincerely, they are very close to those in The Shining, or at least closer than the other ‘horror’ movies made throughout the years.
A sharp eye may have noticed the ‘bunny ears’ around the word horror and that’s because A Cure for Wellness is not a straight-up horror movie by any means. Honestly, this film is so original that it would be unfair to restrain it within a single genre boundary. Most definitely, though, it’s a complex pile of puzzles which the viewer tries to solve through the eyes of the main character.
The characters, indeed, are both interestingly developed throughout the movie and amazingly portrayed by DeHaan as the protagonist and Isaacs as the villain. DeHaan, in particular, gave the best performance of his already brilliant career ever since Chronicle – which is the most underrated super-hero movie and the best one, except for the Nolan’s Batman trilogy, obviously. Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac Vol: II) is also in this movie, where she plays the creepy but innocent Hannah who, beyond being a ‘special case’ in the sanatorium, might also be the key to solve the mystery…
As per issues with this movie, I have only a couple. The biggest one concerns the exposition. Sure enough, the key-element of the ‘cure’ is depicted as something to be paying attention to since the very first sequences at the sanatorium, whilst it would have been better, in my opinion, to keep it more hidden and subtle.
In addition, this movie is long. Two hours and 26 minutes’ runtime, where the audience has to pay careful attention to every single detail given. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly prefer to watch complicated films than those where the viewer gets fed up and treated like a 15 years old idiot. Nevertheless, I am quite sure that A Cure for Wellness will make a lot of people really angry due to its slow pace which requires an unusual effort.
Furthermore, but here I’m probably nit-picking, a couple of scenes realised with the CGI would have been highly more effective if done with practical effects. Also, if it does make any sense, I would have preferred the ending to be less abrupt and hasty, to maintain the same tone throughout the entire film.
All in all, A Cure for Wellness exceeded my expectations by far (although it was on my most anticipated movies list) and it’s absolutely the best Verbinski’s movie so far. It’s probably not a masterpiece, nor something that will revolutionise the contemporary cinema, but I’m sure it will develop a cult and a clique of die-hard fans. And I’m already among them. Don’t miss it out, guys. Strongly recommended. Cheers!