It’s a shame that A Cure for Wellness has been, like some other original projects (last year’s The Nice Guys being a recent example), largely disregarded by critics. One might think it’s a film worth ignoring in favour of the newest big budget sequel – say, John Wick Chapter 2, also out now and admittedly good fun for what it’s worth – but I say not only is A Cure for Wellness worth your time; it deserves your support.
Now, granted, it’s not our job to go see films out of sympathy, because we want to be charitable either to the film or the movie industry itself. That’s not what I’m saying. Rather I’m saying, we should want to support good films, and while I wouldn’t jump to exclaim A Cure for Wellness is particularly ‘great’, it is at least one of the most intriguing films of the year so far.
Main actor Dane DeHaan is – unfortunately for him – best known for playing Harry Osborne in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I tried not to hold that against him on this occasion. His character in this film, Lockhart, is an ambitious young executive working for a large financial services firm in New York. When one of the firm’s senior executives doesn’t return from a spa retreat, his bosses send him to collect their colleague, Roland Pembroke, who is required back in New York City to sign off on a major deal. But upon arriving at this curious ‘wellness center’ in the remote Swiss Alps, Lockhart soon finds himself sucked into staying longer than anticipated…
Gore Verbinski did a fairly decent job in directing The Ring (2002), and here he evokes a similar sense of unease in the visuals, atmosphere and general tone of his new film. At 146 minutes it’s rather long, not so much a problem if you’re enjoying the experience, and though there are scenes in this movie to make even the strongest stomach feel nauseous (you may have seen the eels in the trailer/ poster – they have an immensely uncomfortable role in one scene in particular), the film does manage to hold your attention for the most part.
That is until its final twenty minutes, as we come to discover what lies behind the mysterious facility at which the majority of the film takes place. For me it did start to lose its way; the sense of unease which carries much of the film does not quite hold up for its entirety. The payoff is less satisfying than it could be, though it certainly delivers on providing a distasteful resolution to match its imagery up until that point.
Jason Isaacs plays an entertaining role as Dr Heinreich Volmer, director of the facility. He is the closest thing we have to an antagonist in this film, as he and the other doctors attempt to convince Lockhart that he is ‘where he belongs’ within the facility; that he came there willingly and should stay indefinitely. There comes a clear point in the movie where we begin to wonder that ourselves. In this sense the film evokes the essence of Shutter Island. If you enjoyed that, you’ll like this almost as much.
So no, I’m not going to try and claim A Cure for Wellness is a great movie. But it is certainly different, and there are a couple of intriguing themes in the film that should resonate with modern audiences; particularly, perhaps, those with extremely hard-work ethics and fellow business executives who don’t often take a break unless it is at a spa or something similar to this film’s setting. It will make you uneasy, not just regarding its surface visuals but in the deeper hints pertaining to a bigger picture of today’s society/ business environment.
The film claims; maybe we’re all sick without actually realising it. We think we’re well… and it has the cure for wellness. Sample it and you may discover, as Lockhart does, that walking away from this experience psychologically intact isn’t so easy.
8 / 10