A Cure for Wellness (2017)

6:23 AM

Style over Substance?
This Review Contains Spoilers
 A Cure for Wellness is directed by Gore Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and stars Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, The Amazing Spider-Man), Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, Everest) and Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Patriot). "An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company's CEO from an idyllic but mysterious "wellness centre" at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa's treatments are not what they seem".  A Cure for Wellness is a mysterious, little film - stylish and artsy or flimsy and one-dimensional?

A Cure for Wellness is a film I didn't know too much about but had trailers that always caught my attention when they played in front of a film. Those trailers did a very good job of hiding what A Cure for Wellness is because it’s actually a pretty twisted, mysterious drama that I kind of liked. I was really enjoying the film all the way up until the twist was revealed - I think I was mostly enjoying the rest of the film knowing a super cool twist was around the corner but the twist wasn't super cool- it was a little silly and ridiculous. Even though A Cure for Wellness definitely has a very distinct style to it, someone like M. Night Shyamalan would have probably wrote a better twist which would have made this film incredible. 

What stood out for me during this film were the visuals - they were very cool and the whole film had a very stylish and artsy feel to it. Gore Verbinski really has found unique and original ways to tell the story through creative and cool camera angles and shots. Some of these can be seen in the trailers but the film is full of them – whether that be the trippy train towards the start or the clever match cutting when Hannah finally turns into a woman – it was just very cool and is a reason for someone who loves film to see this film, regardless of its narrative issues. I would absolutely call A Cure for Wellness a visionary film – looking at Verbinski’s resume, he doesn’t appear to be a director that usually has such a distinct style but I certainly think he should carry on making films like this because if he had a better story at hand, this would have been outstanding. A Cure for Wellness is also a pretty gory film – the SFX makeup is done to a very good standard but be warned, there are some very gruesome scenes. There was one visual that I wasn’t too keen on which was Volmer’s ‘real’ face – it was very green and didn’t seem too realistic, I also couldn’t get my head around how he has survived without skin on his face for all these years (I understand he uses old faces as masks but something tells me that wouldn’t work in real life).

Another strong point with this film is the performances – all three of the main cast do a very good job and I believe all the supporting cast are good too. This is the first time I have warmed to Dane DeHaan in a role – I usually find him unlikeable. However, even though the character he plays in this film is unlikeable at times, I could empathize with the character and I think some of that was down to DeHaan’s performance.  I do think DeHaan’s character would have suited an older actor put DeHaan does a good job and leads the film well. I was also really impressed by Mia Goth – this is the first film of hers where she has made a big impression on me (I don’t really recall her or her character in Everest). Goth does an excellent job of playing a woman that is mentally years younger – she really comes across as a young girl. Goth’s role could have easily been quite cringe-worthy but I think she did a very good job – she was possibly my favourite performance in the entire film. Finally, our antagonist, Jason Isaacs – he does a very good job of playing someone you are meant to feel quite uneasy around – I knew the twist was always going to be something to do with his character and I think Isaacs did a good job of making the audience quite uncertain and discomforted around his character. So, the performances and cinematography are more than decent in A Cure for Wellness – what is wrong with this film?

The flaws lie within the story but not until the final act where everything is supposed to come together but it all just feels forced together. The first two hours are very good and I would have given the film a much higher rating if the final act upheld with the previous 120 minutes. Similarly to why I liked The Girl on the Train, A Cure for Wellness’ mystery was constantly unravelling throughout – this made the first 120 minutes fly by – I’m usually someone who cannot deal well with long films but I was never bored during this one. I really liked the idea of the wellness centre – I was intrigued as to what was really going on. Later, when what is going on is revealed, the film becomes much more intense, gory and discomforting – some of the scenes and imagery are hard to watch – dead babies, a cow explodes, eels being shoved down your throat and more! There is also a good message within the film about there being more to life than just success – the characters in this film have lost sight of what matters the most but there is a character ark where DeHaan realises success is not the most important. However, this ark sounds much better written down because I think it’s vague in the film. Films like A Cure for Wellness either fly or die in the big reveal…

Unfortunately, A Cure for Wellness falls into the latter as my feelings towards the film plummeted in the final 20/30 minutes. The following are all twists and reveals in the film:

  • The cure for wellness is disease because it gives us hope that there is a cure.
  • The vitamins the leads ingest prolong their life so Volmer and Hannah are much older than they appear.
  • Volmer and Hannah are father and daughter – Volmer is the same guy who was experimenting on people 300 years ago when his pregnant wife died. Hannah is the baby and to keep his bloodline pure, Volmer tries to have sex with Hannah.
  • Eels are the reason why lives are being lengthened.
  • The water is actually killing the patients but tricks them into thinking they are feeling better

I’m just not keen on or wowed by any of these twists – none of them are as cool as the visuals and none of them are that clever – I can’t even work out whether they make sense or not. The almost-rape incest scene is very hard to watch and I don’t think the film needed to go there. I just think the film went with the most obvious yet ridiculous twist possible – for a film that feels like it’s of a very high calibre throughout, it goes very trashy towards the end. This really makes me think less of the first two hours because the film wasn’t really building up to anything exciting – this film is the perfect example of style over substance - there are cool ideas but there is nothing cool underneath them all.

A Cure for Wellness is just shy of 150 minutes in length and I don’t have a problem with that – for first time watchers, the film is fast paced with a building mystery and revelations throughout. However, the payoff is what really lets audiences down – they have invested two hours of their life into this film and the twist is nothing special, feels unoriginal and doesn’t really make sense. I wouldn’t recommend repeat viewings as I bet the film then would feel slow and dull as you know it was just building up to something absurd. However, the acting and cinematography are redeeming factors – if you’re looking for something that is full of style but lacks a clear and satisfying narrative, then A Cure for Wellness is for you.


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