Based very loosely on the intricate novel by Joanne Greenberg. A young woman's devotion to a childhood fantasy kingdom has taken over her entire life and causes her endless pain and degradation. Placed in a mental hospital, she has the great good fortune to have a truly caring therapist who tries to help her accept reality, even though reality isn't so great either. Written by
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Deborah Blake (Kathleen Quinlan) is admitted to a country institution by her high street parents, unable to cope with the ignominy brought upon them, by her erratic, anti-social behaviour. Taunted by her inner-demons (to which we're treated inventively from the mind's eye perspective), she's gradually cajoled from her psychosis by the unassuming, yet fiercely determined treating doctor (Bibi Andersson delivering a warm, sympathetic performance). Along the journey, there's a couple of plot diversions, some poignant, others hackneyed and exploitative, but then would New World Pictures ever have made this movie without a stereotypical bully nurse scenario? Unlikely.
Roger Corman's production combines cinematic liberties with an at times reverent translation of the Hannah Green novel, creating a compelling B-movie drama and an unlikely companion in the mental illness sub-genre. A cynical viewer might postulate that Corman saw a payday following the success of "One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest", and to an extent, this remains exploitative cinema. Quinlan's performance on the other-hand defies that brand, her characterisation personifies trauma and while often intense, isn't overcooked.
You have to commend New World Pictures for commissioning this release against type, especially when you consider it was straddled by "Hollywood Boulevard" and "Piranha" in the production line. Has a tendency to stigmatise in its representations of the subject matter, and not as sophisticated as, say, William Friedkin's ultra disturbing "Bug", "Rose Garden" thematically, probably nestles in between "Caged Heat" on the left, and "Cuckoo's Nest" on the right. A curious comparison to make, nevertheless, an enjoyable film in spite of its flaws.
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