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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Bradley Hall, Lynn Redgrave

Director: David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg, never one to take the easy road, directs a complex tale about a man who finds out why he is the way he is as he retraces his childhood and the terrible tragedy he has had to live with.

Spider (Ralph Fiennes) leaves the mental institute where he has been a resident for years and moves back to the East End of London where he grew up. He reaches the halfway house as recommended by the institution, which is run by the disciplined Mrs Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave) whose rules the residents have to follow to the word. This is not really the ideal environment the fragile Spider should surround himself in.

Familiar sights and sounds re-awaken memories he has not had in years. Flashbacks to when he was a thirteen year-old boy shows that his mother Mrs Cleg (Miranda Richardson) loves her son Spider (Bradley Hall) very much but we follow his moody father, Bill Cleg (Gabriel Byrne) as he goes down to his local for an after work drink. A plumper by trade, he is approached by the feisty Yvonne (Miranda Richardson playing a second role) and checks out her plumbing.

Bill continues his affair with Yvonne but his wife catches them in the act so Bill kills her. Yvonne is brought home and is introduced to the young Spider as his new mother. Refusing to accept this and through his interest in wire and spider webs, Spider conjures up a trap to get rid of this false mother.

Reverting back to the present with the oppressive regime at the halfway house Spider soon begins to confuse Mrs Wilkinson with Yvonne.

SPIDER is an intriguing look at how a child perceives events and the dire consequences that follow. Adapting the screenplay from his own novel, Patrick McGrath has had first hand experience with the mentally disturbed as a worker at a mental health centre in Canada. Spider is a clever name for the main character as he has woven a web to protect himself and this web must be unwoven for him to get to the truth about his past. The cast are great but no more so than Fiennes as his slow movement and mumbled words show what a fragile state he is in.

Unfortunately this movie, just like Spider, moves at a slow pace, which would be taxing for a mainstream audience. There is no real tension and the fact that Cronenberg directed this does not show at all. Due to the small although quality cast, this feels more like a television movie and might not even get a look in at the multiplexes.

3 out of 6 stars