Asylum

Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska

Starring: Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen, Marton Csokas, Hugh Bonneville
Director: David Mackenzie

Bored housewife with sad sex life has steamy passionate affair with mentally unsound man, who was originally institutionalized for dismembering his own wife. Does this lady have a death wish of her own? Could she really find nothing better to do with her time? How about laying her hands on a copy of the Kama Sutra and trying it on her husband? I personally wish she had built a time machine and whisked away into a more favourable decade, but then the story that does happen would never be. Is that good or bad? I forget. Behold, another fifties drama unfolds before our very eyes.

Welcome to the prim and proper world of 1950s England, where Stella (Natasha Richardson) gets her groove back, oh yeah, but at a very dear price. Stella’s husband (Hugh Bonneville), a newly promoted psychiatrist, clearly doesn’t give her the kind of attention she craves. Neither her son nor her other lady friends can brighten her morbid hours and even household drudgery can’t give her something to do because she already has a housekeeper! What’s worse is that she lives on the psychiatric institution grounds where her hubby is a leading doctor. Poor woman, dreadful times, a hot inmate, a few martinis’ and we’re all set.

This is a ‘50s UNFAITHFUL with an added twist — that of psychologically unstable characters. As in UNFAITHFUL, all credit must go to the vigorous sex scenes, which bare testimony to a real affair, as well as the performances of the leading characters (Sir Ian McKellen in particular is brilliant as ever playing a psychiatrist — evidently Gandalf no longer!).

But these kinds of stories have the ability to lull most people into blissful sleep while sitting in their theatre chairs. Maybe it’s the repetitive nature of the film, or the improbability of anything like this ever happening. ASYLUM is there to make the niche market (that enjoys dramas set in the dark ages) happy. And this it does very well.

For the rest of us, watching Asylum will be a chore. All things being relative in this day and age, your enjoying the film could depend on your definition of ‘chore’. Is taking the trash out a chore? Hey, some of us love it. Most of us can’t wait till it’s over.

This is not a bad film. A selective audience will be pleased; the rest will be sleeping.

4 out of 6 stars

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