Review: Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

Dir. by: Brad Andersonposter
Written by: Joe Gangemi (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (based on a short story by)
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, David Thewlis

This was another movie that sat on my Netflix queue for far longer than I am willing to admit. Of course, the amount of names in this movie is a draw, but throw Edgar Allan Poe at me and I’m nearly salivating to see what lead someone to invoke his name.

An hour into Stonehearst Asylum and I’m curious to see what brought such big names to the script. The names that I didn’t notice were rather large, to me at least. Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Flemyng… hell, I almost expected Harry Potter to pop out at one point.

We follow Dr. Edward Newgate (Sturgess) as he enters the Stonehearst Asylum to study under Dr. Salt (Kingsley). He encounters Eliza Graves (Beckinsale) who is a patient there. Of course, not everything is what it seems. Edward is infatuated with Eliza, who begs him to escape and never come back, but he won’t leave without her. It is quickly revealed that Dr. Salt is a patient. The real Dr. Salt (Caine) is locked in the basement with the rest of the staff as the inmates have taken over the asylum.

There is a beauty in the dance that Dr. Newgate performs to keep Silas Lamb (Kingsley) and the rest of the staff unaware that he knows. Eliza helps him perform it with grace. Going forward, you realise that Silas had the best of intentions for the inmates and wanted to do nothing more than stop the barbaric things (truly barbaric and sadly true to life) that happened to mental patients in the late 1800s. He saw that insisting people are broken only breaks them. Embracing, accepting and accommodating many of the mental illnesses that are present causes most of the patients to thrive and grow, but horrors still lie beneath it all, as not all illness is so easily handled.

Going much further into the story will give away so very much and I don’t want to ruin all of the twists. The acting was as incredible as you would expect it to be from this caliber of talent. Some names took much smaller parts than I would assume from them, but at the end it was an amazing story and a good movie.

I’m finding it hard to put thoughts onto paper in regards to my issues with the movie. Everything about it was absolutely stunning: the acting, the sets, the beautiful wardrobes… all of it. However, this movie was more drama/love story/horror and even that felt like a bit of a stretch. Yes, there was one gory scene and the way that mental health is treated is an absolute horror but… it lacked the same feeling; it lacked any fear for the actual characters and so much of the emotion that I associate with a horror movie. At the end of the movie, I felt it was more akin to a thriller.

Now, that all being said, it is a fantastic movie that I would recommend anyone watch who is into thriller/drama/love story type movies. Again, the talent alone is enough to draw you in and even though I found myself questioning the choice of movie mid-way through, those questions were not based on the movie but my own first impressions. As I stated, horror, to me, feels like a stretch and several actors had much smaller roles than I anticipated.

Watch it. Tell me if I’m wrong. Tell me what category you would put it under. Tell me where to buy Kate’s wardrobe.


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