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In the 50's, the psychiatrist Max Raphael is hired to work as superintendent of an asylum in the outskirts of London, and he moves with his wife Stella Raphael and their son Charlie. Stella has a passionless marriage and is ignored by Max; her boredom changes when her son befriends the handsome inmate Edgar Stark, an sculptor that in a crisis of jealousy had killed and disfigured his wife, and that is treated by Dr. Peter Cleave, an ambitious psychiatrist that aspired Max's position. During the afternoons, Stella has a hot adulterous affair with Edgar until the day he escapes and their affair is discovered. Stella has to take a decision between her family and her wild passion for Edgar. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Anyone calling Natasha Richardson's Stella Rafael a "sexually bored housewife" is Not Paying Attention. What happens to her and to Marton Csokas' Edgar is a thunderbolt--a life changing charge that flashes through them both and changes them forever. They have much more in common with Heathcliff and Cathy (of "Wuthering Heights") than any other lovers I've seen on screen in the 21st century: consumed, obsessed to the point of (and beyond) madness in one another, not out of selfishness but out of a cosmic passion that takes them both utterly by surprise. Certainly, Edgar is a pathologically jealous man: mad, bad and dangerous to know. But madmen can fall in love, too, and he is taken entirely unawares by his passion for the icy, closed-off Stella. What seems on the surface to be a re-enactment of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" turns into the darkest of passion plays. Neither the writer nor the director succumbed to the temptation to make this a sentimental romance or a soap opera; these are dangerous people making dangerous choices, and sometimes dangerous, even tragic mistakes. Like Heathcliff and Cathy, there is no way this story is going to have a happy ending, or these people anything but a tortured denouement. But they are fascinating to watch while they do it.
Marton Csokas absolutely burns through the screen, all fire and smoky, mad eyes to counter Richardson's ice cool yet profoundly moved Stella. Together they heat up to the boiling point and spill over into an explosive combination of lust, love, and tragedy. Ian McKellan's smirking Peter the Freudian is wonderful as the manipulative puppet-master who is not really as clever as he thinks he is. Alas, Hugh Bonneville plays Stella's husband as a one-dimensional cartoon. It's only partly his fault, the character is written that way, but he brings neither subtlety nor nuance to the role. The movie might have been better if McKellan had been cast as the husband, and Bonneville as the shrink. Neither of these characters, however, can hold the screen against the incandescent Edgar and Stella, right up to a surprising and inevitable ending. Even if you condemn them for the disaster they create, you know why they create it. Excellent and disturbing. Highly recommended.
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