Asylum (2005) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
55 Reviews
Sort by:
Desperate Housewives with a morbid twist
Flagrant-Baronessa21 July 2006
Romantic thriller Asylum is a fairly intriguing adaptation of a same-titled McGrath novel, rewritten into a script by the man who wrote Closer -- Patrick Marber. Keeping this in mind whilst watching, it is impossible not to notice similarities in writing between the two films. Like Closer, Asylum is very much a study of human relationships and sexuality and both heavily explore the theme of infidelity. Also, Marber seems to have a thing for having his male character pushing up women against a wall and confronting them with their cheating -- often using violence and crude language. Just an observation.

Moving away from Closer, in Asylum desperate housewife Stella (Natasha Richardson) is bored with her passionless life and dreads every day of being a good little 1950s wife to her stiff husband, who holds an important position as a doctor at a mental asylum nearby. Strolling her garden with her son one day, Stella meets mental patient Edgar who is working for them as their gardener. There is instant forbidden chemistry and the two engage in an illicit affair that soon blossoms into a passionate romance that is shadowed by more than just lust -- it is the fear of getting caught, there is sexual obsession, morbid jealousy on Edgar's part and a great deal of violence ensuing. It all sounds pretty juicy and it is at times so this isn't the kind of movie you want to watch with your parents.

Marton Csokas (whom I haven't seen in much) is perfect for the role of sexy madman Edgar who is so smokin' hot with desire and jealousy that his presence is felt in scenes he isn't even in. Mackenzie shows us the allure of Edgar and make us see why Stella is so attracted to him (in spite of his violent nature) and at the same time makes us see that WE could never be attracted to him. Why not? Because it all comes down to the mental state of Stella and what she needs in her life. I thought the mental state part was handled somewhat sloppily even though we see foreshadowing events. In the end, Asylum is a well-crafted and intense thriller as it succeeds in creating a dark atmosphere throughout and it is, for the most part, well-acted by a respected cast.

24 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Like an insidious sense of darkness creeping up from the unconscious
Chris_Docker25 August 2005
One of the factors that can add to the excitement and tension of the adulterous affair is the danger of being caught. Add to that, the fierce and idiosyncratic passion often attributed to artists. Then make the artist a raving psychopath and you have a pretty heady mix.

So finds the story of Asylum, Director David Mackenzie's further foray into shadowy worlds of sexual obsession, violence and madness. Stella (Natasha Richardson) is wearily married to Max (Hugh Bonneville), a psychiatrist working in a 1950s hospital for the criminally insane. He is overbearing to the point of being monstrous (by modern standards), joking to her about her being his 'pet patient' whilst expecting her to be a no-brainer wife who says the right things when introduced socially. In the initial build up, Mackenzie let's us see the smouldering lust in the face of inmate Edgar, who's incarcerated for murdering and decapitating his wife in a jealous rage. Just as he did with his previous movie, Young Adam, Mackenzie excels at portraying barely sublimated animal sensuality, which soon bursts across the screen in a way that is at once base and beautiful. Helen knows how insane Edgar is, and her feelings for him, but she is gradually drawn into his web of madness, together with her son.

Visually splendid in dank, grey tones, Asylum is an explosion of repressed sexuality that is frightening in its force and surprising in its ending. Natasha Richardson is fantastic as an ignored woman with a desire to be desired that wreaks destruction. Morbid, unsettling, erotic and deeply disturbing.
47 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
jotix1003 September 2005
Patrick McGrath's novel has been faithfully translated to the screen by Patrick Marber, and directed with great care by David Mackenzie. The film's basic idea is to what extent a woman can go when falling passionately in love with a mad man. Mr. Mackenzie seems to be in complete control, as he takes us for this somewhat erotic ride to show us what makes Stella lose her mind. If you haven't seen the film, maybe you should stop reading here.

The action takes place in the England of the fifties. The look of the film fits perfectly with the story thanks to that faded photography Jules Nuttgens created for the movie. The Raphael family arrives at an insane asylum where he has been hired for an important position. As such, Max must attend to everything because he looks as though he will inherit the director's job. Stella, his wife, is another story. She is bored with the surroundings and with her marriage. There is nothing between Max and Stella in a way of passion.

When Edgar, one of the inmates that is somewhat freer around the institution, is assigned to help restore the green house that belongs to the house the Raphaels occupy, he immediately develops an attraction toward Stella. This young woman is awakened into a sexual frenzy because the way that Edgar makes her feel, something that appears is lacking in her own marriage.

The problem is compounded when Peter Cleave, the ambitious doctor who appears to have been bypassed in favor of Max, realizes what's going on between the two lovers, but it's too late for Stella to react, or change ways, she has already been smitten by something that is more powerful than her own resolve to stay away from the mad Edgar. In a way, there's a hint of homosexuality, in that Cleave might also have feelings for the insane man, but being in control, he can rein his own impulses.

Mr. Mackenzie gets excellent acting from all the principals in the film, especially Natasha Richarson, who as Stella, is perfect for this role. Ian McEwen, the distinguished English actor, makes a great Petere Cleave. The surprise of "Asylum" proves to be Marton Csokas, who plays Edgar. Hugh Bonneville, as the cuckolded husband Max, is also quite effective. Judy Parfitt, Joss Ackland and Gus Lewis are seen in supporting roles.

Mr. Mackenzie has directed with great style as he seems to understand these characters well.
41 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Excellent Adaptation - A Gripping and Haunting tale of Obsessive Love
richard-81013 February 2006
Very briefly, the story concerns Stella, the wife of a newly arrived deputy superintendent of a prison hospital for the criminally insane and the developing relationship that she forms with one of the trusted inmates. Nothing particularly original about a tale of doomed love - you inevitably suspect that the outcome will be disastrous, but the tale unfolds in a way that is unexpected and gripping. What makes Asylum stand out is the environment in which the tale is set and the quality of the production. I read the book on which the film is based some years ago. I often find that having read a book, a subsequent film can be a disappointment, possibly because the pictures you have formed in your mind vary from those that appear on screen. Asylum differed in this respect and I came away from the viewing haunted by what I had seen and greatly impressed with the absorbing nature of the production. For the benefit of any readers unfamiliar with the work of the author Patrick McGrath, his books often feature characters that are mentally ill. He knows the subject well as he grew up living in the grounds of Broadmoor, the English prison hospital for the criminally insane that features in this story. His father worked on the medical staff there. The film captures the claustrophobic and artificial environment of such a community and I refer to that which is experienced by the staff and their families rather than the patients. The rigid conformity and social constraints to which Stella is subject to are convincingly portrayed. The casting and acting I found pretty much faultless, not only from the big players such as Richardson and McKellen but the lesser known members of the cast excel also. Marton Csokas as Edgar, the subject of Stella's attention is particularly good. I was expecting a worthy but slightly dull 'quality' drama but I found the film unexpectedly absorbing, even though I was familiar with the story. The direction and photography should be praised also – unobtrusive but allowing the story to unfold at a swift pace so as to hold the viewers attention. Highly recommended.
17 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Like Betty Blue Without the comedy
dellascott20049 September 2005
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.
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A thunderbolt
webmunchkyn6 September 2005
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.
26 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wild and Tragic Passion
Claudio Carvalho11 August 2008
In the 50's, the psychiatrist Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) is hired to work as superintendent of an asylum in the outskirts of London, and he moves with his wife Stella Raphael (Natasha Richardson) and their son Charlie (Gus Lewis). Stella has a passionless marriage and is ignored by Max; her boredom changes when her son befriends the handsome inmate Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas), an sculptor that in a crisis of jealousy had killed and disfigured his wife, and that is treated by Dr. Peter Cleave (Ian McKellen), 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.

"Asylum" is a sort of combination of "Madame Bovary" with "La Ragazza di Trieste", telling the wild and tragic passion of an ignored and bored woman and her descent into a hell life with a madman. The narrative is sexually tense, and the still sexy Natasha Richardson has a fantastic performance in the role of a woman that becomes obsessed by her destructive desire. Her chemistry with Marton Csokas is amazing, combining tension, madness and eroticism in a stylish cinematography. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Paixão Sem Limites" ("Passion Without Limits")
11 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Compelling adaptation of Mcgrath novel
lzvzz714 August 2005
This flawed but compelling adaptation of Patrick Mcgrath's novel spins out a sterile world of which Stella Raphael(Natasha Richardson) is never a part. Enter Edgar Stark(Marton Csokas), sculptor, carpenter and inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. Thus begins a sexual obsession that spins out of control and leaves no one untouched by its uncontrollable ferocity.

The brilliance of this film is Marton Csokas' Edger, who never lets Stella nor the audience forget his profound influence even when he is out of the scene. He paints the portrait of a darkly obsessed genius, ranging from intensely passionate to violently out of control on the turn of a moment. Pulling the viewer into his dance with the haunted Stella and the driven Dr. Peter Cleave, meticulously portrayed by the ever diverse Sir Ian McKellan, he robs us of our will to be horrified by his actions - no mean feat, and beckons the viewer to follow him too.

The one flaw in this otherwise darkly intense film is Ms. Richardson's Stella. Though she tries valiantly to create the portrait of a woman lost in the morass of doubt and fragility - a woman who would choose to stay with her abusive lover - Ms. Richardson's innate strength shines through. The viewer is led to wonder why she stays when she is clearly stronger emotionally than her dynamic partner. But stay she does until chance takes her back to her husband and son.

Scenes of violence and sexuality make Asylum a film not for everyone. The R rating is not to be taken lightly, but it is a do not miss for anyone interested in a powerfully intense film that plumbs the depths of the human psyche and establishes Mr. Csokas as a major film talent well on his way.
39 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Emotionally intense
Gordon-115 October 2006
This film is about the wife of a psychiatrist who falls in love with one of the patients in the psychiatric institution.

At the start, I thought that the scenes seem disjointed. The scenes were so short that it seems truncated and underdeveloped. However, as the film develops, the film no longer feels this way. Instead, this turns into an advantage because the scenes are only as long as they need to be, and hence the film is tight and intense, and things happen all the time. There is hardly room for the viewers to breathe!

This is an intense film with a lot of emotions. We get to see love, hate, jealousy and regret. Both the director and the actors capture the emotions in the most vivid manner that makes me feel for the characters.

The ending is rather unexpected, and the reaction of all the parties concerned in the film are also portrayed.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Movie well worth seeing!
episteme_lb4 May 2005
I just saw Asylum last night (it is not actually out yet) and I really enjoyed it. The performances were excellent; as were the settings, the drama and the dialogue. It's complex, unpredictable, intense, beautiful and Gothic. I loved the erotic scenes the most, but the whole movie was brilliant visually and dramatically. There is only one real complaint I have with the movie. At the end of the movie Ian's character does something and I cannot figure out what motivated the character to do this. I personally think the character should not have and would not have done this. The only reason I can see the character doing what he did was for dramatic effect on the audience. Of course, I have not read the book and if I did, this may well shed light on this act. Either way, go see the movie whenever it does come out!
31 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the worst films I have ever seen.
sports727231 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
How can anyone say the acting is good in this film?

The script and direction were so appalling I defy anyone to make a good job of it.

I saw it at the Edinburgh film festival when it first came out and have managed to wipe most of it from my memory.

I do remember that the director was sitting right behind me,as he was scheduled to do a Q and A.

Needless to say he did a runner before the film finished as most of the audience was laughing hysterically,especially when the mother sniffed her dead child's pyjamas.

This is definitely one of the worst films I have ever seen.I know most of the films made these days are complete and utter trash,but they don't pretend to be otherwise,and I wouldn't bother to go and see them.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Gothic Romance Tale
gradyharp19 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Patrick McGrath's novel 'Asylum' was more a poetic elegy about thwarted love and lust than the screenplay by Patrick Marber ('Closer') addresses. The improbability of the story, when McGrath's poetic prose is extracted, surfaces and the nuances of a dark love story are lessened. Despite this the film is a worthy, strange story with a fine cast lending lustre to it.

The time is the 1950s, and the place is a mental institution in the outskirts of London where Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) brings his wife Stella (Natasha Richardson) and young son Charlie (Gus Lewis) to begin his tenure as a psychologist. The asylum is dark, dank, and foreboding, a place where the wives of the doctors are expected to behave and be bored at silly conclaves and teas, all lead by the director Jack (Joss Ackland) and his stuffy wife Bridie (Wanda Ventham). The sinister Dr. Peter Cleave (Ian McKellen) observes the new couple with suspicion, as they are his 'competition' in the ascendancy of director. Peter is coldly genial and concerns himself only with his 'pet patient' Edgar (Marton Csokas), a handsome but dark sculptor who is institutionalized for brutally murdering and dismembering his wife and for whom Peter appears to have a sexual attraction.

In no time Stella is bored, not even able to assist her maid Mrs. Rose (Sara Thurston) in household chores. Stella sees Edgar and an attraction is mutually palpable, and soon enough they begin acting out their frustrated prolonged lust in the greenhouse Edgar is renovating. Peter and the other staff expect the affair, but when circumstances surface Max's ready embarrassment at his wife's behavior explodes. Edgar escapes the asylum to live with his old friend Nick (Sean Harris) and before long Stella discovers his whereabouts in London and begins assignations there under the guise of shopping trips. Ultimately she responds to Edgar's demands to leave her family and live with him, all the while watching Edgar plunge into the same mental state that preceded the murder of his wife. Peter relentlessly seeks out the couple, finds them and returns Stella to her husband who has been fired from his job because of her dalliances. They move to North Wales to a meager life, Edgar follows, and before long the couple reunites with disastrous results. Stella's mind is broken and she tacitly sits and watches her son drown, and as a result she is returned to the asylum as a patient. The ending is bleak and somewhat unexpected and ties the story of love abnormally focused to a circular closure.

Filmed in atmospheric dark tones by cinematographer Giles Nuttgens the story's mood remains grim. The cast is excellent with most of the honors going to Ian McKellen in one of his usual highly nuanced performances. Natasha Richardson is believable as the tortured Stella and Hugh Bonneville is aptly cold and distant. Marton Csokas finds the dark interior of Edgar and is understandably the source of attraction for both Stella and Peter. The director David Mackenzie ('Young Adam') needed to pay more attention to the editing, a problem that makes this tale of downfall choppy and disjointed. Otherwise 'Asylum' is a suspenseful, tragic story of the asylums people create for themselves. But oh, for the poetry of Patrick McGrath... Recommended. Grady Harp
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great acting, but who wants to watch a movie like this?
Diana_Prince9 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The performances in this film are excellent, notably Sir Ian McKellan's, who is almost always stellar. But the entirety of this movie I thought to myself, "Why am I not turning this off?" The answer: I was morbidly fascinated. The sex scenes, though mostly clothed, were gratuitous in that it was an addiction - almost animal like because the characters were basically "shooting up." Sex to them both was a drug and they had to get their fix. As disturbing as that is, it does prove that there is such a thing as 'sex addicts.' The plot of the movie (based on the novel by Patrick McGrath) had several large holes. Too many questions that are answered too vaguely. My opinion is, if they bring something small to light in a film this complex, they need to see through. To say "phsycological thriller" is in-accurate. "Drama" is included but not the main theme. "Horror" wouldn't come close to the feelings experienced during the two hour duration. "Boredom" is well suited, but also in-accurate. The genre is basically indescribable in its...complexity? I sat through the whole film caring nothing for any of the main characters, even Peter Cleeve, played by McKellan. His character is shady but never fully explained. Is he playing Mrs. Raphael by telling her he loves her? Is he merely using her to get to the "tragic genius" of Edgar Stark? Or is he merely looking for comfort from a woman who has, by this point in the film, watched her son drown and done nothing, then been committed to the same hospital she and her husband had one day hoped to oversee? Which seems to go against the very character of "Dr. Peter Cleeve."

Even at the end of the movie when she jumps to her (very bloody and somewhat unexpected) death the 'relationship' is never fully divulged. Personally I don't want to be left with the image of a bloody woman muttering "Leave Me Alone" to a man she never loved (but agreed to marry anyway?) and the "bloody sculptor" (Edgar Stark) played - very well - by Marton Csokas)) sobbing in his solitary confinement because he never got the chance to see the woman he was obsessed with just one more time. In short, if you like the feeling of massive depression and undefinable anger at all the characters at the end of a movie, I highly recommend it.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Brilliant Film!
Louisville8831 January 2006
Asylum is a brilliant film about a woman who is obsessed with a crazy man. Natasha Richardson is perfectly casted as Stella. We see her, bored out her mind at the Asylum. Trying to pass time. Then, one day her son introduces her to his new friend, Edgar the gardner. An attraction is ignited. Soon, boredom takes over and is just to much and lust begins taking its place. Stella visits Edgar in the greenhouse he is repairing and they have a brief, but physical, affair. This soon leads to Stella returning for more. The passion is intense, her obsession is intense. This all seems fine to and a life together has become her dream. But after Edgar sneaks out of the Asylum things begin to unwind and the truth uncovered.

This is a wonderful movie. Stella has passion and obsession, while Edgar has passion and possession. This interesting combination provides enough material to leave you on the edge of your seat as the movie comes to its end. Perfect acting, especially from Natasha who very well deserved an Oscar for this.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Seemed promising and was ultimately pointless
Mikel39 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There have been many films titled 'Asylum' over the years. At least one I can think of was pretty good. The 1972 film with Peter Cushing. Last night we watched one with that name from 2005 starring Natasha Richardson and Ian McKellen. It was listed as a 'Horror' film at Amazon Prime Videos and had a high rating. I would consider it more a steamy psychological drama than horror. As might be expected by the names involved it was well acted. The settings and visuals were well done too. The first one third of the film was promising. It's the story of a psychiatrist named Max that comes to work in a new position at large asylum for the mentally disturbed including the criminally insane. He brings along his seemingly bored wife Stella (played by the late Natasha Richardson) and young son. Ian McKellen plays Dr. Cleave, a long time doctor there that felt he deserved the position that Max was given. The wife (Natasha Richardson) soon falls for one of the inmates, Edgar. Edgar is a man who was found guilty in the murder and disfigurement of his former wife. Yes, what woman could resist such a tempting bad boy like Edgar, geesh. Soon Stella and Edgar begin an unlikely steamy love affair right under the nose of her husband, the guards and everyone else at the Asylum. This place has some security. They have steamy love making encounters right on the asylum grounds in places where he is doing jobs as a trusted inmate. Sometimes they just miss being caught on the grounds by a guard coming to check on him. It all becomes rather laughable the chances the wife takes. Still the first third of the film is intriguing and makes you wonder where it will all lead. Is Ian McKellen's character some how a part of all this? What part does he play in what's to come? Unfortunately the story soon turns into one where you do not care about a single character in the film with the exception of the little boy. The inmate soon easily escapes when he realizes he will not be released anytime in the near future. The wife finds shopping excursion excuses to go weekly into the city where she joins him at his hide out. Eventually Stella leaves her husband to be with Edgar, even though he is now jealous of her talking to other men and beats her regularly. The story goes even further downhill from there dragging on with more depressing and irritating developments. Finally at the depressing end we found ourselves asking ourselves why they turned such a promising drama into such a total mess. Don't bother watching this film unless you like depressing pointless movies with characters you eventually don't care about.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Much to admire, much to dislike
El Gato-42 September 2005
There is so much to admire about Asylum that I wish the movie came together better. The smoldering 50s sensuality is dead on, as are the colors used for clothing, building, etc. (although all the vehicles are a little too new). The acting is generally good all around, although a couple of moments may seem a bit forced.

But structurally, the film is a difficult sell. It seems to be a thriller, but isn't. The characters should be sympathetic. None are, and most become less so as the movie goes along. There is a formal symmetry to the proceedings, but I was left wondering if it served the material as well as some other approach might have.

Like his previous movie Young Adam, Mackenzie takes a literal approach to his adaptations - not be the best way, perhaps, to bring these types of difficult materials to the screen.
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
They Shouldn't Make These
robert-temple-131 March 2009
This is a horror film masquerading as an emotional drama. Why bother? The story is so disturbing, so nasty, so tasteless, so pointless. It is an exercise in 'provocation' and exploitation. Do we really want to see the late and lamented Natasha Richardson brilliantly going to pieces? Do we really want to see Ian McKellen being brilliantly devious, creepy, and demented? Do we really want to see Marton Csokas being brilliantly passionate, creepy, and demented? Do we want to see any of these things? Do we want to see people reduced to emotional and psychological rubble? Children drowning? Suicide? Marriage wrecked? Despair? Hopelessness? Do we want to be provided with a ready-made reason why we should all go jump off a high building and decide that there is no point in living? If the answer is yes, then this film is for you. Anyone who thinks life is tough enough already should give it a miss.
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
YesYesNo20 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Asylum is a dreadful, insulting, misogynistic affair unworthy of cable TV. Do not hesitate to avoid it at all costs, and you will be saved the nausea it induces. After a promising start with auspices of campy intrigue, it becomes apparent that the filmmakers are woefully inept and incapable of crafting characters with real, human characteristics, much less any genuine comic value. What we get are one-dimensional figures with no sense of personal dignity or free-will, making the whole thing dreadfully predictable if not always boring. The story is contrived and makes little sense. I have nothing against contrived and senseless stories when accompanied by redeeming qualities in direction or character building, but herein lies not a single grain of inventiveness. The dialog is sometimes witty, and more often sub-par, formulaic banter that advances our plot but allows no greater insights into the motivations of the characters.

By far the most annoying element is the manner in which our wife, played sufficiently by Natasha Richardson, consistently makes the stupidest decisions possible, ruining any semblance of sympathy (absolutely essential for this type of film) she might evoke from the audience, and making a mockery of the central themes and ideas of sexual obsession emerging from female sexual boredom. Imagine Bunuel's Belle de Jour being directed by some fresh-out-of-film-school, Tarantino-fan-boy hack intent on making the next juicy psychological thriller, and you have an idea of what our finished product looks like, with neither legitimate psychological elements, nor any thrills to be found.

In summary of plot: Our respectable bourgeois wife and mother of darling boy Charley falls madly in love with an ax-murdering mental hospital inmate, and devolves into something not unlike that stereotypical impulsive and insecure teenage runaway who keeps going back to her sexy and abusive boyfriend for more sex and abuse. Even if our filmmakers knew how to show the confluence of female love and self-harming obsession in an appropriate light, the premise would still be ruinously goofy. I end up wondering if the filmmakers are even trying to mold a sympathetic protagonist, or rather are out to see how dumb and stereotypical they can make the film's only notable female character. So we get a helpless slave to passions, devoid of reason and self interest, and more easily manipulated than a plastic abacus, and bravo, you make James Bond look like Douglas Sirk in its empathy for sexually 'bored' women.

Ian McKellan is in this movie too, by the way, playing a psych doctor who amusingly devolves into a completely unbelievable Hannibal Lector type engineer of social disaster, routinely treating his patients like white mice by steering them into the most unhelpful situations, like ballroom dances between fiendish wife-killers and vulnerable wives. Only in bad horror films are the circumstances and settings in which characters meet each others for moments of dramatic intensity so embarrassingly contrived and unlikely.

Any time a film brings you to the point where you hope that all the fake and disgusting characters terminate their lives in suicide, you have an indication that the film has achieved nothing of particular value for those who think movies should be about humans. Fortunately, a key character DOES commit suicide, making for a healthy round of laughs from the audience. I won't tell you who, because that would be a spoiler, but if spoiling the ending would save you the price of admission, I'd consider myself a hero.
16 out of 40 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Filmmakers of Asylum Deserve an Asylum
jdavisbruin30 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Well, the summer movie season is definitely on, which means there are lots of lackluster blockbusters and--for those of us that prefer something a bit more intellectual--independent films. "Asylum"--which stars Natasha Richardson as a woman who leaves her phycho-therapist husband for a mental patient and then goes insane herself and Ian McKellen as her lover's doctor--has all the pretentiousness of an intellectual, entertaining independent film but fails to live up to expectations.

"Asylum," or as I call it "This Summer's Swimming Pool," has all the elements that a good film should have. It has a story about adultery, violence, and insanity, three elements which left alone could create a compelling story and thrown together should be absolutely riveting. The film also features a stellar cast and a noteworthy screenwriter, Patrick Marber, famed for writing the stage and screen versions of "Closer," another film I felt particularly raped out of ten dollars by. In all fairness, I saw "Asylum" at a free sneak-preview show and also had a complimentary glass of wine beforehand, so the experience wasn't a total waste of time or money.

The main problems in "Asylum" come from poor writing and directing. Some of the lines in the film were so poorly written and cheesy that the entire audience was laughing hysterically at certain points; definitely not the desired reaction to a dramatic piece. Other scenes seemed barely stitched together or crafted. For example, after building the tension between the woman and the inmate she eventually falls for, the director totally lost all energy and chemistry between them during their first sex scene. The lovemaking between the characters lasted a dismal minute and a half, making me and half the audience laugh. A ninety-year-old man could last longer than that, and if the writer or director doubt that they could have asked Ian McKellen as he was on set.

In short, if you're in the mood for a good independent film, I hear "My Date With Drew" and "March of the Penguins" are quite good. But stay away from "Asylum" as the creators of it should have been put in one.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Why could you not control yourself?
love_ngyung8 March 2007
It would be unfair to say that this movie is merely mediocre, but there is nothing engrossing in "Asylum" whatsoever. The movie is about the wife of a psychologist who has a sexual relationship with a lunatic inmate in a psychiatric hospital.

Stella, the wife of the psychologist, for some strange reason, began having a passionate affair with Edgar, the insane inmate who decapitated his own wife. Both of them kept having a so-called lascivious affair during his working outside her house. As well as telling the story about Stella's unfaithfulness, the movie portrays the same, old cliché of an unhappy married couple, which I found a tad arid and unimaginative. Despite attempting a bit of a twist near the end, the movie gives the impression that the story only was included so as to extend the duration of the film.

This movie should have ended after an hour. The director or screenwriter, however, seemed to want to make sure that the viewers grasp the actual main point of the two lovers' situation: why were they easily allowed to engage in mischievous frolics and who was the person who pulled the strings behind the whole story?

The protagonists and supporting roles give a real good performance. Ian McKellen, who played Dr. Peter Cleave, performed to his usual standard. The lead characters, played by Natasha Richardson and Marton Csokas were well suited in their roles and Hugh Bonneville, unsurprisingly, depicted a stuffy, loveless psychologist husband in a good way. The cast of this movie, as a whole, is a good cast.

As mentioned, the movie, itself, had a sterile plot. There was nothing new in this liaison; this unfaithful tale has been told before, and several times. The movie, ipso facto, failed to impress me. Thanks to all the stars who excellently managed to keep this movie a bit interesting. Without them, I could easily have nodded off. Altogether, they ought to do it again in another movie, with a more riveting story to tell.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flames to A Moth
AZINDN16 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Asylum brings obsession, sex, and passion into perspective and in and out of marriage in this film with Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen, and a cast of veteran British character actors whose fine performances bring depth and pathos to a story of insanity and love. Asylum is also a verb and a noun and this distinction is examined in the story which asks who are the patients and who are the caregivers, a questionable situation in the setting of a rural hospital for the criminally insane. There, an ambitious new head, Dr. Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) arrives with his stunning but distant, bored wife, Stella (Natasha Richardson), and their young son, Charley. They are surrounded by patients whose regulated existence is mirrored in the conservative views and practices of the medical staff and their middle class wives. Stella is warned by her husband to fit in, it is a threat more than a request.

Stella meets Dr. Peter Cleve (McKellen), a bachelor administrator who has been passed over for the job her husband holds, after his years of loyal service. His pernicious resentment and cloying contrivances reflect his status as the ultimate arranger, the gist of the storyline in hindsight. Cleve tells Stella at their first meeting that his specialty are sexual cases in which passions (not his own) can be observed (and manipulated for his sadistic enjoyment). The depth of this revelation is only recognized in the final scene.

Cleve's pet patient is a handsome failed artist, Edgar, who in a fit of jealousy murdered and decapitated his wife. Cleve allows the artist to be a laborer in the backyard conservatory of Stella's home where she is easily drawn to him and seduced. Their passionate trysts take over their daily routine and the hospital gossip begins. Stella's cuckold husband is too submerged in his work and fitting in with the surroundings to notice his wife's growing obsession. The all-consuming sexual attachment of Stella and the Edgar result in his eventual escape from the hospital with her following and the expected disastrous results that verge on the classical Greek tragedy of Medea. In the second half of the film, unexpected twists and turns bring all the men of Stella's life in direct conflict and collision as she is abandoned, institutionalized, and lusted after.

The mature storyline is filled with vibrant scenery and grittiness in sets reflecting beautiful cinematography. Each actor is subtle and never over the top that brings the unexpected to a satisfying ending without drawing overt conclusions for the audience. It is another small and quiet British film which they excel in producing. For my money, it was more than worth the viewing.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
it could be better
Armand9 January 2014
one of films who seduce only for its cast. the story is far to be bad but it is common.the mental insanity, forbidden passion, dramatic choices , the end are ingredients from an old recipes. and the surprises are isolated isles.the basic virtue - the performance of Natasha Richardson as new Madame Bovary . than - Ian McKellen as a Mefisto avatar, dramatic, credible, ambiguous. a decent movie. not extraordinary, maybe beautiful, interesting for a couple of scenes and for memories about another works with same theme. so the important problem is its potential, the impression than it could be better and each member of team is innocent. short, an interesting film. but nothing more.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
It coulda been a contender
lastliberal22 August 2007
There was so much promise in this story, but it just wasn't there. Maybe, if they had beefed up Sir Ian's role or had a husband that drew more sympathy, it could have been a great film.

As it was, it was just passable, and not worthy of a watch recommendation, even with Sir Ian in the cast. He just seemed to phone in his role. That was a shame because he could have been written as more mischievous and allowed to stretch to the capability we know he has.

Except for the utterly forgettable Maid in Manhattan, this is the first time I have seen Natasha Richardson. She did a good job in the role of a neglected housewife and pawn of Sir Ian.

This was also the first film of director David Mackenzie's that I have seen. he appears to have some promise, but he just didn't show it here.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Spooky and sexy, but there are better ones...
Fever29 March 2006
I rented this one off a recommendation from Netflix. I'm a fan of these types of movies. From "Basic Instinct" to "The Lover", these movies really intrigue me. Though Ian McKellan is an extraordinary actor, he just didn't pan out as Peter. The attraction between Stella and Edgar, though understandable, seems superficial and Peter just kinda sits on the sidelines for a while. I can see why Stella cheated on Max...shesh, what a putz. I didn't think any husband could be that one-dimensional. But the scenes seems choppy and while the "big sex scenes" are fiery (very similar to "Unfaithful"), they're quite limited and the story then drags on for about another hour before the one "shocker" scene (you'll know it when you see it), leaves you rather empty and the ending never really feels sad. It was more like disappointed. If you want to catch a great "sexually intense home-wrecking" movie, watch "Damage". This one has scenes to make "Asylum" blush. It's from 1992 starring Jeremy Irons and is not for the timid. Start exploring others before renting this one.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Austin Movie Show review
leilapostgrad10 October 2005
The root of the word "hysteria", hyster, comes from the Greek word for womb. So, the psychological disturbance, termed "hysteria" in the 18th century, was originally believed to be a disease of women and resulted from some disturbance in the uterus. What on Earth, you ask, does this have to do with the movie Asylum? The answer is – everything.

Natasha Richardson is soulful and sensual as Stella, the wife of a cold and controlling psychologist who has a new job at mental hospital in 1950s London. Stella is bored out of her mind until she meets Edgar, a mental patient who looks just like Russell Crowe, but hotter. Passion erupts, and Stella allows herself to be seduced by Edgar, knowing full well that he's in this hospital for killing and mutilating his wife.

Yes, Asylum is a film about mental illness, but it's also a comment on the historical control and oppression of women. The mentally ill were seen as sick, dangerous, and incapable children who needed constant supervision and control. For much of Western history, women have been viewed and treated in much the same way. Is Stella hysterical, or was she simply a lonely and depressed woman driven to the edge by a patriarchal society that tried to keep her quiet, docile, repressed, oppressed, and under control?
5 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews