A Cure for Wellness Review
A Cure For Wellness is one of those films that spend so much time admiring itself for being marginally clever, you’ll wish they spent some of that time piecing together a better script. Before writing this review, I took a quick peek online to see what some other critics were saying about this film. Not because I was being lazy but because I wanted a second opinion. I saw this film on a Thursday which is my Friday when it comes to my day job. I was tired and quite frankly, this film wasn’t at the top of my list of things to do. So I wanted to make sure the feelings I had for this film weren’t due to some outside influence. It didn’t take much for me to realize that sadly my initial feelings about A Cure For Wellness were right.
The headline for the review in The Verge is “A Smart Thriller Made for Dumb People”. I didn’t even bother reading further past the headline because that succinctly summed up why I felt so frustrated for the 146 minute runtime of the film. There is a fine line between leaving the audience frustrated with the lack of answers to questions raised by the plot and needlessly holding their hands by over-explaining every plot detail. A Cure for Wellness accomplishes both which is a stunning achievement.
This film both over and under explain things in the plot. The film centers on Lockhart (DeHaan), an ambitious employee of a financial firm that is clearly involved in criminal behavior. After getting caught by the board making his own illegal transaction, Lockhart is recruited by the board to track down the firm's CEO, Pembroke (Groener), in order for the firm's financial irregularities to be blamed on him and a merger to be complete. Pembroke sent some cryptic messages to all the board members from some retreat in the Swiss Alps that explaining that he's being 'cured of a sickness' that they all have and he's not coming back. Lockhart then takes the trip to bring Pembroke back where he finds some unconventional treatments being run by a mysterious man named Volmer(Isaacs).
From there the film descends into a world class mess. The first problem with this film is that it tries to juggle too many themes and plotlines. There's the theme of greed of rich people as well as the guilt some of them feel for their wealth and/or taking advantage of others to get it. There's a theme of family and thinking beyond yourself. But then there's also a really weird plot involving an incestuous Baron, his wife and the pursuit of the perfect bloodline.
The problem is, none of these themes gel together. And yet the film tries to force feed it to the audience.
Where A Cure for Wellness succeeds is in the creepiness factor. Scenes are beautifully shot and are framed in ways to really help generate a reaction from the audience. There’s a really good use of sound to convey tension in this film. One scene in particular where Lockhart is on crutches moving through the locker room really exemplifies this. The only real sound you here is the creak of the crutches as they hit the ground and it's very creepy. A Cure For Wellness really shines in moments like this. It uses visuals and sound to convey tension and even foreshadowing using fire and water. The film in some instances tries to give a feeling of sensory deprivation.
This film really suffers from “Why don’t you just kill him?” syndrome. At no point is an explanation given for why they don’t just have Lockhart killed. Sure, this is a recurring problem with many stories with clear heroes and villains. But in A Cure For Wellness, its even worse and more glaring of a problem that cause the film to not make sense. The rest of the patients are much older than Lockhart. He is constantly making trouble. At one point in the film, it appears Volmer has finally had enough and is going to do what he should have done at the beginning and put Lockhart through the treatment. But the film inexplicably continues on after that. There’s no explanation for how he survives and breaks the treatment. There's no explanation for why, after all the trouble he’s created, they didn’t just “make him disappear." The film makes a point to tell us that Lockhart's father is dead (a suicide tied to his current job that they never delve deeper into) and that his mother is on the brink. Lockhart's employers, the ones who sent him to retrieve Pembroke, only care about saving their own asses or at least being able to blame him. But Volmer never gets rid of him. This becomes especially frustrating when you think you've finally reached the conclusion of the film and instead, the film snatches that goal post away and drags on to go down an even more ridiculous route.
And that's where A Cure For Wellness really crosses the line from frustrating but clever thriller to eye-rolling disaster. Instead of ending where it should and leaving something for the audience's imagination, this film decides to heavy handily go down a grotesque road of rape, incest and ridiculousness. Initially I felt the end of this film just fell flat. But after having two weeks to really think about it, the end of the film is just downright offensive.
A Cure for Wellness is just a frustrating and disappointing mess. Maybe if it was shorter I could recommend it as a flawed but entertaining thriller but at almost 2 1/2 hours, I just can't recommend anyone sit through this.