Review: A Cure For Wellness

A Cure For Wellness has been on my radar since the first trailer came out – Hollywood’s long-awaited sophisticated psycho-thriller – and I was eager to see director Gore Verbinski’s comeback to horror since his remake of The Ring.

The film fixates on self-discovery and for our protagonist Lockhart (Dane DeHaan), his journey begins as an eager junior turned exec determined to prove his worth by climbing the economic high-rise. From the get-go Lockhart exerts pretention, reminiscent of Mad Men’s young Pete Campbell, but his cooked books conveniently enable his company’s board members to blackmail him. Lockhart must now bring back the company’s CEO (Pembroke) from a Swiss wellness centre to sign an all round benefitting merger – trouble is, Pembroke doesn’t want to leave.

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Verbinski successfully combines classical horror conventions with his own contemporary and experimental stylisation, which can first be seen as Lockhart makes his way up to the Castle-like clinic. Against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps the castle is abundantly oppressive as a typically located eyrie, and it is at this point when Lockhart is removed from contemporary society and placed into isolation that I immediately think: Bram Stocker’s Dracula meets twisted fairytale fantasy.

A more idyllic and charming rendition of Shutter Island’s Ashecliffe at first, it doesn’t take long for this Swiss spa to do a number on Lockhart with the assistance from submissive staff and their illusive answers as to the whereabouts of Pembroke. Deciding to return to New York, retrieving Pembroke seemed like Lockhart’s only issue until alarming hallucinations start to take effect after consuming the local water (part of the treatment). From bad to worse, his predicament then escalates resulting in a car crash. Lockhart lands himself right back in the clinic with a broken leg whereby a power shift occurs and his role is shifted from guest to patient.

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After meeting the dubious clinic director Volmer (Jason Isaacs), Lockhart is persuaded to take “the cure”. Still equipped with his hotshot attitude and not a lot else to do, he takes it upon himself to discover what the cure really is. While hobbling on crutches around the nothing-is-what-it-seems facility he encounters; the “very special case” Hannah (Mia Goth); folktales; inhospitable villagers; an aquifer turned evil layer; and eels, lots and lots of eels (red herrings, if you will).

Film Review A Cure For Wellness

While Verbinski’s cinematic style is relentless and overflowing with visual metaphors – on an aesthetic level this is well executed – patience and perseverance are key, as answers and plot twists are provided in titbit fashion. At just around two and a half hours long, I couldn’t help but contemplate whether or not Verbinski had exhausted the latter element in exchange for a plot holed narrative, which we trust to eventually provide the film’s underlying message.

Fortunately, most inadequacies can be somewhat side-stepped or salvaged by the atmospheric soundtrack. A cross between Stranger Things and A Secret Garden, Benjamin Wallfisch’s ominous score successfully reinforces the film’s apt for nihilistic mystery and dream-like states.

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The only other real mystery, also revealed at the end, is the certificate rating 18. A self-confessed scaredy-cat I was rather hesitant about going in alone, but turns out the real horror is less frightening and more… disturbing.  Quickly spiralling down, A Cure For Wellness takes a peak turn, which at this stage I fear screenplay writer Justin Haythe has got too many ends to tie together.

Eventually it becomes apparent that Lockhart wasn’t really destined for his new found position, given that he was only bumped up because his predecessor mysteriously clocked off. So, it seems fitting that what we have left in Verbinski’s fairytale finale is a depiction of humans stripped of their success, which in turn reveals their haunting emptiness, and Lockhart amidst some sort of eel-infused trip gazing upon the Alps.

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Lady Loves

Below I have listed some of my ultimate lady loves in film. Do bear in mind, these are not all of them. Those that are on the list are there because I like them as actresses, but primarily I have put my favourite characters they portray on here.

In no particular order…

  1. Anna Karina as Nana Kleinfrankenheim in Vivre Sa Vie

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Anna Karina brings a certain sincerity and affection to this film. As a character she is simply mesmerising and depicts the struggle of women in this era beautifully. Karina creates depth to Nana, giving herself flexibility to be playful as well as display her inner turmoils.

2. Kate Winslet as Nancy Cowan in Carnage

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Realistically I could have picked any of the cast, but Kate Winslet in particular provides her character with effortless sophistication, even when their situation descends into utter chaos. She also graciously navigates this descent which aids the story’s sense of humour perfectly – starting poised and rational, she’s still as likeable when outraged.

3. Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde

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I think there’s a runaway in every girl, and I also think many girls can identify with Bonnie. As for Faye Dunaway, she gives Bonnie a coolness that makes this murderess thief enviable and liberating. Maybe there’s something wrong with that, but ultimately she’s a rule breaker and feisty as hell.

4. Angelina Jolie as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted 

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In my eyes, it’s fair to say that this role was Oscar worthy. Angelina Jolie presents no limits or boundaries to Lisa’s sociopathic personality – her presence is always as exciting as it is intense. Lisa is very much the leader of the pack, she’s fearless and authoritative, but Jolie equally depicts her weaknesses and fears.

5. Ziyi Zhang as Xiao Mei in House of Flying Daggers

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I cannot lie, there’s is a whole lot of envy towards Ziyi Zhang. In this instance she is essentially one of the most dangerous women in film – Xiao Mei is as kick-ass as she is heartbreaking, while also having the ability to be ferocious, she is also poised. Why wouldn’t she be on this list?

6. Julianne Moore as Charley in A Single Man

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Charley is complex, and although she is beautiful and charmingly fun, she carries much sorrow. I admire the way Moore is able to give Charley some illusivity in the way that she is never quite understood. Classy, yet lonely, Moore is able to draw empathy from the spectator despite her seemingly care-free lifestyle.

7. Anne Parillaud as Nikita in Nikita

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Erratic, untameable and can give any male agent a run for their money – Parillaud could not have been better cast. She combines rebellion and naivety so smoothly, as well as adaptability and resourcefulness. Parillaud, in my eyes, is the mortal Wonder Woman.

8. Tilda Swinton as Eva Khatchadourian in We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Eva defies all the conventional norms of parenting and womanhood – her ‘unnatural’ desire to not want children for a start. Furthermore, Swinton’s ability to provide such a range of emotional variety from start to beginning is enigmatic. She is daring and brave, and elegantly portrays every parents’ nightmare.

9. Eva Green as Isabelle in The Dreamers

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One of her more notorious performances, Green presents the most fanciable woman! Isabelle is young, creative and part of the French revolution. Green embodies everything Parisian, film and youthful through Isabelle, and it’s hard not to identify.

10. Kristen Stewart as Valentine in Clouds of Sils Maria

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Stewart as Valentine really ignited my love for her. In this particular role she addresses the transition from traditional to contemporary within acting as well as social media. She has a cool chicness about her, as well as an empowering wisdom despite her age. Stewart also engages with our current generation in a sophisticated and philosophical approach.

 

Top Dietary Documentaries (On Netflix)

If you have had a gander at my previous blog posts, you can make the safe assumption that I’m into my food. I’m no pro, but I primarily upload food posts because of my enjoyment of cooking, and sharing is caring.

I’m super guilty, as I enjoy my fast food, but I do aim for balance. This year I have also started to do more exercise (mostly cross-training, but also walking the dog, aha) and I have started to notice a difference.

Everybody hits that moment where you actually want to be healthier than you currently are, but there are different routes to this conclusion. For me, it was through various documentaries that I watched on Netflix, and some of them hit hard.

I want to share with you some of my favourite and most recommended documentaries about diet and nutrition that I found, because as a viewer I was shell-shocked with some of the harsh facts. However, despite the seemingly bleak content in these films, I believe it is important that everyone should hear what they have to say.

In no particular order…

Fed Up

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For me, this was particularly disturbing to watch as it focuses on Obesity in American children. Fed Up exposes how major food companies neglect the health of their consumers through marketing and advertising by means of ignoring the harm their products are actually causing.

From nutritionists and doctors, to parents and the children themselves, Fed Up examines the reality of what we consume, and how this effects our health both physically and mentally. It was quite horrific to see the amount of sugar in some products – ones which I have consumed myself – as the film then shows how this effects your body.

I think this film has prompted a huge movement in the health sector.

Watch: Fed Up Trailer

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead

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I love Joe, and I love this film – it’s personal, and proof of the possible. This doc follows Joe on his journey to lose weight by juicing. It’s an honest account of a man understanding and accepting that he needs to change his body and his mind – spoiler alert: he does!

It’s a really uplifting and inspiring film, and Joe responsibly then goes on to help others with their journeys – there’s a Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 (which you should also watch). As a viewer, and someone who is maybe wanting to get in better shape, you can easily identify with Joe as he really does come out the other side by changing his diet, which effectively changes his life.

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I finally did get my juicer! You should follow Joe to get some of his great juice recipes, and more.

Watch: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead Trailer

Watch: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 Trailer

 

Food, Inc

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Food, Inc is a bit more of a stomach turner, and frankly, quite harrowing – very much proving that “the truth hurts”. However, this doc gives insight into the production of meat in factories vs independent farms, the effects of meat in consumers, and the conditions of the live stock and workers.

As a viewer, and consumer, we come to officially realise the control that large corporations within the meat industry have over us – unfortunately we are the ones that suffer. Moreover, we are equally condoning their actions by purchasing their products. We also see the ways in which our health is at risk as large corporations are exposed for taking cheaper and unethical routes to make their business thrive.

Watch: Food, Inc Trailer

Hungry For Change

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Hungry for Changes takes an in-depth look at; nutrition; the physical and mental effects of certain ingredients/chemicals found in food; and the benefits overall of a healthy diet.

There are a lot of nutritionists, doctors, and authors of well-being books. Some have criticised this tactic of authority and said it manipulates the viewer too much, because who wouldn’t believe a doctor? I agree to an extent, however I am pushing for this manoeuvre as I still maintain that this doc should be seen. We have hit that point where we have to listen to these facts, whether we like it or not.

Watch: Hungry For Change Trailer

You should really watch them!

I know these films don’t scream “entertaining”, but I assure you they are. More importantly they are films to support and educate you about things we should be aware of, but have in fact been hidden from us.

Learning the truth typically isn’t easy – it’s quite inconvenient. But, as these films demonstrate, there is so much wrong that needs to be made right.

For me, I notice when I’m happier, healthier and more productive, and I’m sure you do too. These films shed light on ways in which I can improve my health and well-being, so I am glad that I watched them.

When we’re eating food that’s good for our bodies, and exercising, our happiness goes through the roof – and although some times challenging, for me, it’s totally worth it.

Sunday [Film] Sessions

Sunday Funday. There’s a few things that make my Sundays perfect; Sunday Wine Club (an old after-work tradition); Sunday lunch (when I’m in the mood for a cliché, I’m a big advocate of a walk in the park as well); and a film night.

I love easy-watching on Sundays – allow my brain to rest before the week coming inevitably begins. While there’s still time, honestly, all I want to do is chill on the sofa (before the point of no return occurs at the pub). So, below I have listed (in no particular order) some of my classic, and essential, Sunday-watching materials.

 

The First Wives Club (1996)

Directed by: Hugh Wilson

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This film springs to mind, because I actually did watch this last Sunday – I  prematurely apologise to the male viewer as you may feel a little disregarded. However, as a source of empowerment, it is a wonderfully balanced combination of humor and easy-watching. Plus, it’s Hawn, Milder and Keaton absolutely smashing it as a empowering and comical  female trio.

There’s something about a Sunday that needs some 90’s indulgence, but also something lighthearted. It’s a typical equilibrium-driven narrative that provides that ultimate feel-good ending. I also love the hilarious over-dramatised hysteria; the jealously of the younger women; insecurity, quick-wit repartee; and that window scene. I don’t think it matters how old you are, I think there is something to relate to in each of these women, particularly for the female spectator, but I’m not that narrow minded (men need their wins too). And lets not forget, no rom-coms can compare to that of the 90’s!

Watch: The First Wives Club Trailer

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by: Wes Anderson

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 I know I am not alone when I say that: one of the things I love about watching any Anderson film is that it feels as though someone is reading me a bed time story. With regards to The Royal Tenenbaums, and it’s seemingly depressive and sombre swagger, is that there’s something ultimately soothing about the execution – a kind of “Once upon a time, in New York, there lived a family…”.

The film kindly adheres to my Sunday night vibes, what with Anderson’s unique portrayal of a whimsical family tale, along with his notorious set and camera composition that makes me feel like I’ve attended the theater without leaving my lounge.

Secrets; drama; achievements; failure; depression; estranged relatives – it has to be one of my favourite family films!

Watch: The Royal Tenenbaums Trailer

Love Me If You Dare / Jeux d’enfants (2003)

Directed by: Yann Samuell

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I think even the most uneducated person could denote that this film is of the romantic-variety, but I would hate for you to assume too much. Personally I am not the biggest fan of chick-flicks – at least try to make loneliness look moderately interesting! This film however, really packs a punch to make you feel something at the end of the week.

Love Me If You Dare completely won me over, and I guess the fact still remains: no one does romance like the French. More so, the promise of thrill is in the title. The film explores the game of love, escalating from harmless childish dares into life-altering adolescent consequences.

The spectator is very much along for the ride, knowing as little as the leading roles what will happen next. It’s unpredictable; dangerous; brutal; and sexy – the perfect combination for disaster. It’s also honest; heart-wrenching; and wildly entertaining! I like to think of it as a surrealist fairy tale for adults. Oh, I love it when Hollywood gets it’s ass kicked!

Watch: Love Me If You Dare (English) Trailer

Down By Law (1986)

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

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As if a fly-on-the-wall, Down By Law could be the the closest contender to an aesthetically indulgent pseudo-documentary where life by circumstance simply unfolds.

Essentially three men, by different means, wind up in a Louisiana jail cell together. We contemplate the American dream, the men’s patience (as well as indifference), and wonder where the film is actually going (if going anywhere at all). I personally love the fixation on character as opposed to an obviously narrative-driven blockbuster.

This film is perfect for those who crave a realness from fiction. Jarmusch depicts an effortlessly cool, yet seemingly, mundane existence of life in the back end of New Orleans, and then takes it to the swamps. But there’s also a surrealness that is equally consistent – you begin to feel as lost and confused as our unlikely trio.

As well as reminding us how much we miss a good film noir, the gloriously relaxed “acting” accompanied by Robby Müller’s (just beautiful) cinematography, makes Down By Law one of the sharpest and more casual must-sees. What more do you want from a Sunday session?

Watch: Down By Law Trailer

Clouds Of Sils Maria (2014)

Directed by: Olivier Assayas

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Despite the “rest” aspect of a Sunday, I profoundly enjoy a film that encourages me to think. As an ex-film student I have now gone past the point of no return – I am either switched on, or I do not watch a film.

Now, with regards to the latter, you can humor me by understanding my intrigue into this film’s particular look into an actress’ career. Clouds Of Sils Maria, at least to me, explores the film industry in terms of career, celebrity culture and shifts in modernism.

If you want drama, this film has plenty, but it is primarily depicted through subtly and intellect. It goes beyond characterisation, and I personally believe it is strategically casted to allegorically examine the motifs embodied through the narrative. Clouds Of Sils Maria explores film; theater; the working environment; and personal relationships. It’s a film about age, and carefully invites the spectator to philosophically examine the position of film as an industry, as well as an inherently meta discourse.

Watch: Clouds Of Sils Maria Trailer

 

Humanist Films

From the Great Depression to another Marvel blip, film still stands as a source of escapism. I accept this to an extent. But I believe that even more so today we need not to escape, but to see, witness and celebrate who we are as humans. Titles related to my discourse are that of France Ha (Noah Baumbach), Somewhere (Sofia Coppola), A Summer’s Tale (Eric Rohmer), Submarine (Richard Ayoade) and Whiplash (Damien Chazelle). What these titles have in common with the two films I wish to discuss is that they explore human relationships, emotions and, quite simply, life.

I’m going to begin with Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 Week End – arguably Godard’s pivotal turning point into his more radical film making – and Damián Szifrón’s 2014 Wild Tales.

My fundamental intrigue into Week End is looking at the structure of Godard’s narrative, or lack-there-of. Week End is not an easy watch as to some it arguably lacks sense because the audience are not guided through the unravelling chaos. But alternatively it represents life accurately with regards to being a fictional film. The camera follows the unfolding and random events. Characters, by conventional standards, that should be more prominent in the narrative enter a scene as quickly as they leave and do not reappear. Then again, could one not argue that this chance meeting is their purpose, demonstrating the limitless and random encounters of everyday life? Is this not what is happening all through the narrative?

With regards to the latter, all of Week End’s seeming intransitivity, I would argue, Godard appears to be strategically putting into play. For instance shots such as the pan past the car wreckages amongst the traffic jam and the close-up of a dead driver present the audience with enigmas – the how and why, and the resolution to follow. I would suggest this demonstrates Godard’s portrayal of the bourgeois; their selfishness to only address the needs of themselves with no regards to the situation of others. This is further amplified by the way in which Corinne and Roland ignore the struggles of a woman from their own class.

Moreover, one could suggest that the framing of shots further encapsulates characteristics of the bourgeois as Godard abruptly cuts away from the ‘main action’ and ceases to readdress it. This camera movement reflects some of the characters own dismissal towards enigmatic events.

From inaction to action, I would deem Wild Tales to be a intensely ‘human’ film. With it’s basic human instincts and urges, Szifrón shows the spectator what, I would argue, they really want to see. I argue this because of the honesty demonstrated by each character, but this honesty goes hand in hand with an unhinged capacity to completely lose control.

I feel Szifrón explores the pivotal line between rationality and irrationality, but presents the spectator with the conclusion to ‘what if?’. Honest, yet poetic, Wild Tales centres on a subjective truth that makes the characters very human. For instance, each character represents an exercise to which the spectator can identify with – taking matters into one’s own hands; to react completely on primal instinct; to go with your gut inclination and instant desire. Why not?

Class, social norms and politics are all cast aside from the identity of each character as they all become at one with their own thought process. For myself, this connotes a common identity not only amongst the characters, but the spectator. This is why I argue that Wild Tales is a very honest and very human film. It does not present the audience with a fantasy but a choice – something everyone has.

Each character embodies a found freedom away from convention and social norms which allow them to act out their initial desires. Morally right? Perhaps not. However, Szifrón demonstrates, what I would argue are, realistic outcomes of a society confined to social constraints of judgement, or a governing body. For instance, there is a motif that constantly displays injustice or a form of abuse that encapsulates each character, which drives them to the inevitable end of their moral reasoning.

With regards to both Wild Tales and Week End, the two films examine the consequences of a distressed society. Szifrón would appear to be centring more on the issues of the individual, but I feel as though this stands for an allegorical portrayal for society as a whole. In turn, the fixation upon select characters enables Wild Tales to directly address the spectator in order to engage with the isolation within a society that feels unjust and corrupt. Additionally, Week End gazes at the unravelling of the bourgeois which have been so encapsulated amidst a society destroyed by its own materialistic consumerism. Ideal for Godard? I would say so.

These two films detail the dissection of human nature – our needs and desires, along with our anxieties and choices. Simultaneously a message is derived from each director, displaying realities that are present today. For me Szifrón offers an escape and a sense of liberation. The continuity of sadistic humour enables a sweet justice for each character, which in a way offers a realist outcome for an outrageous turn of events. On the other hand, as opposed to the individual, Godard outlines his perspective with regards to French society in the 1960s revolving around French consumerism. Ultimately the greed and selfishness of the higher class will drive themselves, as well as society, into complete annihilation. Much like Szifrón, the beginning of the story starts with ‘life as we know it’, but Week End, in particular, reveals the fate of humanity into outright barbarism.

Powerful? Yes. The two films are insightful and delve into the chaos that is society, consequently revealing outcomes to our actions caused by being placed in a cage put there by a governing body.

Effective? The films both look at a perceived reality, Godard, albeit as more dystopian. But Godard accentuates a need for change, as does Szifrón by means of cause and imminent reaction. The films are a brutal mirror, granted from different times, but with Godard here as my beginning and Szifrón as a comfort that expresses the need and demand for more films about humans to act as an advocate for change, as well as hope.

We are not all Made in Chelsea.

Week-end