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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
I want you to understand what's going to happen next. The shock will wear off, and it will be replaced by a devastating grief. In time, you will come to terms with what you have done and you'll just be very, very sad. And that sadness will stay with you for the rest of your life.
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This very dark film, set in England in the lae 1950's is definitely not for children since it contains some very disturbing scenes and events. Though most of it is set in a mental hospital and deals with mental illness, it is not one of those films like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" or even "Angel Baby" that romanticizes and sentimentalizes the subject. So don't expect that. Rather it is a more realistic examination of the fine line that sometimes separates so-called normal people from the mad. But make no mistake, there is a line.
Stella Raphael(Natasha Richardson) arrives with her husband (Hugh Bonneville) and young son Charley at the hospital where he has accepted a live-in position. There are rumors that another psychiatrist, Peter Cleve(Sir Ian McKellen)may have been in line for the same position. Stella does not fit in with the other wives. She is younger, more smartly dressed(one of her hats looks for all the world like a UFO) and less traditional in every way. And the hospital culture is clearly one that expects women to keep a low profile and not make waves. Since their posh living quarters have a full-time servant, there is not a lot for her to do, but she does take up gardening, and Charley makes friends with Edgar(Marton Csokas, a trusted "pet patient" of Dr. Cleve). Stella is also drawn to the handsome and magnetic Edgar,a sculptor, despite being warned that he is there for killing his wife violently. They dance together at a staff-patient party, and soon after have a hurried coupling in the garden shed. After that, it is furtive, animalistic sex whenever and wherever they can. One day Edgar, against Stella's better judgment comes to her in her own bedroom, where he is seen by her mother-in-law, a disdainful woman who has clearly never liked her. After Edgar steals some cash from the dresser and seizes the opportunity to escape, things rapidly deteriorate in the Raphael home. There is also another shift. Stella's husband, who at first, seemed cold and repressive, almost deserving of being cuckolded, becomes more likable, and in one of the final scenes of the movie, shows that he has probably loved Stella after all. Edgar, on the other hand, reveals himself to be jealous and unpredictable at best, and at worst, violent durng a time when he and Stella attempt a beatnik life in London with another Australian artist friend of his. And what of the inscrutable Dr. Cleve? Does he really want to help patients or is he a power-hungry manipulator? One of the reasons I compared this film to Betty Blue is aprtly because of some of the disturbingly violent acts of characters, but also because it shows that survival instincts sometimes don't have anything to do with madness or sanity. Whatdoes not kill me does not necessarily make me stronger--sometimes it just makes me crazier and more self-destructive.
Martin Csokas is an actor I had never heard of before but would certainly like to see more of him.
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