ASYLUM (Rated R) Release Date: August 12th, 2005 (NYC-Clearview 1st & 62nd and Regal Union Square) by Paramount Classics.
The Cast: Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen, Morton Csokas, Hugh Bonneville
Directed by David Mackenzie.
BASIC PREMISE: A woman (Richardson) cheats on her husband (Bonneville) with an inmate (Csokas) at a psychiatric ward.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Natasha Richardson gives one of the strongest performances of her career as Stella, an unfaithful wife. The erotic scenes between her and the inmate are beautifully-filmed and full of sexual energy as well as lust. As usual, Ian McKellen also gives a good performance the inmate's doctor who tries to convince Stella that she should stay away from the inmate. Predictably, she chooses not to listen to his advice and continues to believe that the inmate is sane enough to love and protect her. There are two major conflicts that cause tension, one of which is that she has to hide her secret affair from her husband who is also happens to be working at the asylum as a doctor. Then there is the threat that the inmate might murder Stella just like he murdered his wife in the past. It is amazing how Stella manages to trust and confide in him regardless of his past. Everything that happens after Stella starts a physical relationship with him is predictable except the very surprising ending. The cinematography is superb and the set design is very impressive. None of the characters are really likeable or developed, but they are all crucial to the plot--even the husband, who is quick to find out about his wife's love affair. The plot gets very chaotic in the final half hour as the manhunt for the inmate actually begins and some characters do things you would not expect them to do--especially Ian McKellan's character who ends up showing a different side of him all-too quickly.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: This film's basic message is that there is a fine line between sanity and insanity. Often, this line is very blurred and full of deceptions, so it is important to think clearly and not let sex or lust get in the way of reality. The unsatisfying ending is depressing, but it manages to show how easy it is to destroy your life and the life of those around you just because of one very bad mistake. As the saying goes, a lie has no legs and it always comes back to haunt you, just like it does to Stella.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: The final half hour is slightly contrived and messy.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 2
THE BOTTOM LINE: Superb performances, great cinematography, and sexually-charged erotic scenes are slightly dragged down by the final, contrived half hour.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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