"Beautifully bizarre - An absurd exploration of what healthy really means"
Everyone like's a good spa day, don't they? There is nothing quite like relaxing and recharging your batteries with a soothing massage to tranquil music followed by a steam room - yet director Gore Verbinski's version of such a place doesn't exactly make you want to ring up and book an appointment. Best known for Pirates of the Caribbean and the re-make of Japanese horror, The Ring Verbinski is back with a terrifyingly fascinating look at the human race and the society we reside in. Starring Mia Goth, Dane DeHaan and the fabulously wicked Jason Isaacs, A Cure for Wellness is certainly an acquired taste but a taste that tingles and lingers for all the right reasons.
The story follows Lockhart (DeHaan) on his mission (under pain of imprisonment) to retrieve Pembroke, the CEO of his company from a ‘wellness centre’ in the Swiss Alps to assist an important merger. Lockhart is the epitome of a rude, greedy ‘Nicorette’ chewing businessman who really doesn’t care about anything but his task at hand. Nor is he a likeable character. Arriving at the location, which one can only describe as gorgeously picturesque; with grass so green with wealthy guests flying kites in the crisp mountain air initially appearing to be the ideal place for a spa getaway. Yet something plagues his mind as he enters the centre and interacts with a few guests. Secluded upon a hill and cut off from the villagers below, Lockhart suddenly finds himself in the centre with a broken leg and about to start the treatment upon ‘head of the show’ Volmer’s (Isaacs) recommendation. The treatment, known as ‘The Cure’ meant to cleanse your body of the sickness created by the hectic modern world in a series of treatments or should we say procedures. Quite rapidly and squeamishly it would seem, we along with Lockhart find out this is not the usual wellness retreat.
Much like the work of Kubrick, Lars Von Trier and Lynch which certainly aren't everyone’s bag; this story paves its way with a particular urgency meant to confuse, de-rail and will indefinitely make the audience feel uneasy whilst consuming. Seamlessly edited montages, reminiscent in both tone and style of Aronosky's drug induced Requiem for a Dream emerge planting eerie thoughts of eels in one's bath for days after watching. Not to mention installing even more fear in those not fond of the dentist. This Gothic physiological thriller focuses on Lockhart yes, but the key to unlocking this tale is the timid and frail Hannah (Goth), the one young patient in amongst the elderly who has never left the walls of the centre. Convinced she is sick and the only thing keeping her and the doctors healthy is a sinister elixir supposedly made up of vitamins and minerals; her story is a sad one that’s for sure. Forming a strange bond with our hero Hannah experiences grown up things for the first time and ultimately unleashes her womanhood through hypnotic eel infested sequences revealing the centres true intentions.
The mystery and suspense created here is unbearable, exciting and strangely arousing at times. There are so many pieces to this puzzle that even blinking could deter you from figuring out the truth; simply because there is no escaping the plot holes and the copious amount of questions that are just left to simmer much to the viewer’s frustration. Clever trickery from the filmmakers urge you just as Lockhart does to consider what you are seeing is real or is it just a side-effect of the treatment? The fact that we are uncertain as to whether we want this flawed human being to survive this situation and get back to his corrupt investment banking job or endure such an experience is equally unsettling in itself.
Falling off the rails and becoming a tad over the top (not to mention creepily masonic) in the final throws - A Cure for Wellness succeeds in making a unique film with a resonating message at its gory core. Allow the questions to slither through your mind and mess with your senses. Sit back and cherish the oddness of it all opposed to viewing another formulaic feature.