Stonehearst Asylum (2014)
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Written by: Edgar Allan Poe, Joe Gangemi
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Flemyng, Jim Sturgess, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine
STONEHEARST ASYLUM (2014)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Young doctor Edward Newgate arrives at Stonehearst Asylum to shadow the work of the superintendant as an apprentice after completing his studies at Oxford. Superintendent Dr. Lamb greets the doctor and introduces the young man to the Asylum’s patients, many of whom come from noble and wealthy backgrounds. Edward is curious and intrigued by the unorthadox methods and treatments used by Dr. Lamb at Stonehearst and is keen to learn more but during his stay at the Asylum, Edward begins to discover not everything is what it seems.
Based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, Stonehearst Asylum is a thrilling, gripping tale featuring a stellar British cast. Jim Sturgess, who starred in the brilliant Deception and more recently, Kidnapping Mr Heineken, is charming and quite lovable as young Doctor Edward Newgate. He’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, keen to learn from the masters and help patients who are suffering from madness, a quest he feels is his vocation in life. The optimistic Doctor comes face-to-face with the straight-talking, confident Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley) at Stonehearst Asylum, a commanding presence who truly believes in the effectiveness of his modern methods of treating his patients. Lamb’s practice of letting the patients flourish without being medicated and to encourage free and open integration, even as far as eating with the patients at the same table at supper, leaves Edward astonished yet curious. With the patients able to relax and freely roam within the asylum, Edward takes the opportunity to find out more about Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), a beautiful woman plagued by hysteria who catches his eye whilst assisting Lamb on his rounds. Though between Dr. Lamb and Mr Finn (an intimidating David Thewlis), the head of security, Edward senses secrets are being kept within the asylum.
Right from the beginning of the movie, Stonehearst Asylum thrusts the viewer into a Victorian world with its particular practise of medicine and its approach to dealing to with patients whom they class as being mad. Compared to current day, the methods in the film are extremely medieval in practice which already creates a feeling of unease before the film has had time to establish itself.
Stonehearst Asylum relishes its use of building atmosphere, creating a gothic environment filled to the brim with varying personalities from the patients of the asylum to the staff. Getting to know so many characters, either directly or indirectly, really gets the viewer involved and feels as though the asylum is a thriving location, even if the people living there are afflicted by various mental disorders. All the actors involved in the movie, from the big names to the smaller names, make each character their own, so much to the point that the residents of the asylum feel like one big family, for better or worse. The performances are tremendous and there’s not a single weak link here to mention which solidifies its position as an impressive piece of storytelling.
Whilst there’s quite a dark edge to the movie throughout, thanks to the gothic asylum setting, there’s hints of joy and optimism in there too, particularly from the lead characters Edward and Eliza. The developing relationship between Edward and Eliza is often whimsical, as if taken out of a romantic novel, but the realism of the setting and the plot brings the ideal back down to the gritty reality.
It’s rare to see a movie these days that feels whole and has enough plot depth to get immersed in but Stonehearst Asylum is one of those movies. It ticks the boxes on so many levels that once you’ve started watching, you cannot tear yourself away. Fans of classic horror will find lots to enjoy here and for a modern output that harks back to years gone by, this may be one of the best classic-style movies made in recent times that I’ve had the fortune of seeing. A must-watch!