A Cure for Wellness

02/25/2017 09:30

Film: A Cure for Wellness

Year: 2016

Director: Gore Verbiniski

Writer: Justin Haythe

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth



This film begins with a man who is working late. He is a financial analyst as his screen has a bunch of graphs and excel spreadsheets open. While he is taking a break, he notices a letter that is fancy, as it has a wax seal on the back of it. He ignores it when he gets an alert that a chart is ready. He is hit with a chest pain, but he tries to fight through. He gets up to get a drink of water and has a heart attack. He passes away on the floor.

We then shift to a train with a man on the phone while working on his laptop; he is played by Dane DeHaan. He is messy and is trying to overcome smoking, as he is chewing through Nicorette gum. The man is changing numbers on a spreadsheet and he is calling out the man on the phone. When asked for his ticket, he produces it, but doesn’t want to make small talk with the man who asked for it.

DeHaan arrives at work and we see that he has been promoted. He is given a corner office and some of his former co-workers give him a toast of champagne. We get that he is ambitious from a comment he makes to them. He is then called up to the board room. There we meet his bosses. The head of it is Craig Wroe and he is joined by David Bishins, Lisa Banes and Carl Lumbly. They congratulate him on the big deal he made, which is the reason that he was promoted. They then call him out knowing that what he did is illegal. DeHaan knows that they aren’t going to turn him in, so he asks what they want from him to do. He reads a letter that sounds like it is from a mentally unstable person. Wroe tells him he has to go to Switzerland to bring this man back so they can complete a major merger and make him the scapegoat for what DeHaan did.

He has to travel to a castle like building at the top of small mountain. The place he is going is a spa. He is driven up there by a man who is employed by it played by Ivo Nandi. During this drive, Nandi tells DeHaan the history of the place. There was a baron who wanted to keep his bloodline pure, so he married his sister. When she was impregnated, her child was cut out of her and she was burned for what happened. The previous castle was burned to the ground to erase the family. It was discovered that the waters on the property have curative effects so this institute was created for wealthy individuals.

DeHaan comes to the front desk and asks to see a named Pembroke. He is rebuffed, because he is five minutes late for visitation. He doesn’t take no for an answer and asks to see a manager. The orderly has him sign something, which is in German and tells him she will see what she can do. DeHaan goes outside to look for service and speaks with some of the residents. Celia Imrie, an elderly woman, is doing a crossword puzzle and asks her two companions, Tomas Norström and Ashok Mandanna, for help. They don’t know the answer for the word she is looking for, but DeHaan helps her. He walks off still searching for service and is asked to retrieve a croquet ball for a man. DeHaan finds a drain that draws his attention.

He then meets with the deputy director, played by Adrian Schiller, and is rebuffed from meeting with Pembroke as it is outside of visitation hours. The place is very strict about their rules. DeHaan watches as he takes a drop from a cobalt bottle. It is claimed to be vitamins. DeHaan gets back into the car and tries to leave. While they are driving away, he sees a young woman standing on a high ledge; she is played by Mia Goth. He doesn’t make it far though. They are in a car accident and he wakes up in the institute with a broken leg.

The head of this place is played by Jason Isaacs. He has a picture in his office of the place being built and there is a mystery man in the picture with wraps on his face. He tells DeHaan he will let him stay there while he recovers. DeHaan starts to investigate into this place and why the water isn’t the miracle cure that everyone thinks. He finds Pembroke, who is played by Harry Groener. He is reluctant to leave, but does agree. DeHaan drinks the water and starts to hallucinate. He is also started to be giving the same treatments as those that are staying. DeHaan looks into Goth and what her connection to this place and Isaacs is.

Can DeHaan figure it out before it is too late? Can he make it out of the institute? Can he keep it together or will he descend into the same madness that everyone else is in? Can he convince Goth to leave as well? What is the secret of this place and its owner, Isaacs?

I will admit that when I left the theater after seeing this film that I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it and needed to process before sitting down and writing this. The first thing I will say that I absolutely loved was the concept of this spa/institute. Isaacs is playing on the rich people by convincing them that they are sick and that they need to be cured. He is brainwashing them into thinking he is helping. What I love about this, it is so true to things you see on an every day basis. Just watch television or listen to the radio for a half hour and you will hear about miracle diets and this is the same thing. It is just quite a bit more expensive and gives you a trip to Switzerland to reach it. I also thought the story was good. It gives you the history of the place during DeHaan’s trek up to it, and then we get little pieces here and there, helped with DeHaan making comments to people in regards to it. We get it all put together at the climax which I really enjoyed.

I felt the acting was good as well. Isaacs has always been solid in everything I’ve seen. DeHaan and Goth I only have a limited history of seeing, but both were good as well. This film does build a solid mystery that keep me trying to figure out what was going on, which I like in my films. The setting also contributes to the tension. Being in a sterile place like this, where everything is uniform makes it feel like a maze and then there are the underground caverns that have a dirty feel, which is good as well. Another interesting aspect to me was that the film starts in New York with a modern feel, but the entire time in Switzerland, it feels like it shifts back to the 50’s. This makes more sense at the climax and I loved how strongly it gives this feel. This is coupled with a very surreal feel we get periodically.

I did have some issues with this film though. The first would be that I was disappointed they didn’t explain more about the eels/worms that we see in the film. We get that they are causing what happens to people and their degenerating from being healthy. I am under the impression though that eels live in salt water and are more bottom feeding creatures. This one clearly they are living in fresh water and I would have liked more about their origin as I feel it would have helped me piece together all of this. I know this film had a lot to present, but the length seemed a little excessive. There were some lulls in the film that made me lose interest a bit.

Now with that said, I know this film is getting a lot of bad reviews, but I personally enjoyed it. I do not think it is the best film I’ve seen in awhile by any stretch, but there is a good mystery there that is pieced together throughout the film. I felt the acting for the most part was decent. The story had good parts, but was missing things which did bother me. The setting though was well done and helps build the mood and tension. This film was missing some things that could have strongly helped it, but it was still worth a viewing to make your own determination.


My Rating: 6 out of 10