A Cure For Wellness, directed by Gore Verbinski, is one of the most hauntingly obscure movies I have ever seen. I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as horror, but it was most definitely disturbing. Yet, despite the bizarre subject matter, it was brilliantly well written and entertaining to watch. I give A Cure For Wellness 4 out of 5 stars, mainly for its ambitious screenplay. Spoilers ahead.
Being a fan of Verbinski’s past movies, Mouse Hunt, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Rango, I was very surprised that A Cure For Wellness was directed by a guy who did a comedy about two men hunting for a mouse in an abandoned mansion. However, I then realized he was also responsible for The Ring; that’s when I had that “Ohhh” moment and it all made sense.
In a nutshell, A Cure For Wellness attacks our modern society’s concept that we focus too much of our time on becoming successful, no matter what the price may be. Yet, Verbinski and his screenplay writer, Justin Haythe, chose to do this by writing a story about 300 year old eels, an incestuous family, immortality, and hydrotherapy that all takes place in a sanitorium in the Swiss Alps. Too weird? Wait, it gets better.
Our lead character, Lockhart (Dean DeHaan) is being blackmailed by the financial trading company he works for after he did illegal work in order to advance his success and wealth. In order for him to get away with his crime, the board members of the company ask him to go to the sanitorium in the Swiss Alps in order to bring back Pembroke, a patient residing at the wellness center. Pembroke, is one of the board members, and is incredibly important to the company as he must be the last person to approve their current merger. Therefore, Lockhart is sent off to the Swiss Alps, confident that he’ll be able to easily bring Pembroke back, and he’ll be off the hook with the company. However, it is not as easy to bring Pembroke back to New York as he thinks.
Once he arrives, he meets with one of the doctors to discuss Pembroke’s temporary release in order to settle the company’s current conflict in New York, but the doctors do not want Pembroke released, as part of his treatment is to avoid the stresses of the modern world. Irritated and frustrated, Lockhart takes matters into his own hands to find Pembroke. However, after drinking a large glass of the sanitarium’s water, I immediately think “NO, don’t drink the water!”
After he is unable to bring Pembroke with him to New York, he suddenly has a car wreck as he barely left the wellness center, which forces him to stay in the sanitorium with his broken leg. While at his stay at the center, he is convinced by the doctors to partake in the treatment. While being treated, he learned more and more about its history and its true intentions.
Turns out that Volmer (Jason Isaacs), the director of the facility, intentionally made this “wellness program” for people who are not actually ill. He uses their naivety in thinking they need to be “cured” so he can create an immortality drug that has been keeping him alive for the past 200 years.
Volmer used eels in the patient’s treatment by putting them microscopically in the drinking water and in all the “wellness” treatments, most particularly in the treatment in which he placed the patient’s in full body machines that shriveled the bodies. The eels in the patients’ bodies create a sweaty concoction in this machine that he and his daughter have been consuming every day – a great recipe for immortality, right?
Volmer has kept his daughter, Hannah, alive for 118 years by giving her the drug. In order to keep his bloodline pure, he waited for Hannah to become a woman in order to marry her and to conceive a child with her.
With the help of another patient, Victoria Watkins, Lockhart was able to solve this disturbing puzzle. He helped Hannah kill her father, escape the night of her wedding, and set the entire property on fire.
In this nightmarish experience, Lockhart learned that being successful should not overwhelm his entire life as he realized it ruined his family and his conscious; that was the real ailment.
A Cure For Wellness was mainly a film for pure entertainment, and I enjoyed watching this very strange film. Yet, the acting in wasn’t anything substantial, as the actors in this film were minor. However, it’s beautifully unique cinematography and one-of-a-kind screenplay made up for it.
The cinematography was greatly executed as it stayed consistent throughout the film. The tint of the filter used was a greenish color, which was the main color palette throughout the film. It reminded me of the eels and society’s overall greed for wealth and success. My favorite scene for the cinematography was when Lockhart was on the train to the sanitorium and the camera showed the reflection on the train’s mirror-like windows of the gorgeous water and mountains aligned with the actual water and mountains.
The screenplay was obscurely amazing, which is usual from Verbinski’s movies like The Ring and Rango. Even though there were times the story became so disturbing to watch on-screen that I had to look away, especially when Volmer was putting a huge tube down Lockhart’s throat, which inside was swarming with small, green eels. Even once the film ends, you’ll still be asking questions that were not necessarily answered, but in the end, it was an excellent film because it always kept me questioning the eels, the water, Hannah, and the entire working of the sanitorium; and that’s when you know it’s a well-written story.
Written by Alyssa Weinstein