All is not well with ‘A Cure for Wellness’



     The title of the film, “A Cure for Wellness,” is very creative. It also succeeds in explaining some of the events of the film.  The story and screenplay were written by Justin Haythe and the film’s director Gore Verbinski. So they deserve the credit for a fine title.

     There are other attributes in this film that should be praised. The three leads offer fine performances. Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, a young rising star in the corporate world. He is sent to find the CEO of the cooperation who is recuperating at a spa in Switzerland. Jason Isaacs plays Volmer, the director of the spa. Mia Goth plays a strange girl named Hannah who catches Lockhart’s attention once he arrives at the spa.

     Beyond the performances of the three main characters, there are other strengths. I feel like I write too often that a film looks good. These days, most of them do look extraordinary. “Cure of Wellness” is above most visually. The exterior of the spa, the various interior rooms, the trip to the spa, and others are perfectly set. The film deserves an “A” for “Set Decoration.”

     There are also some cinematography shots that are simply impressive. Surely some of these involve more than just camera work but also visual effects.  The two scenes that most comes to my mind is that shot of a deer struggling to cross a road and amazing shot of a train entering a tunnel. Those to shots linger with me as I think of the film as a whole.

     Then there is the climax. When finally all things become clear, the ending of the film almost redeems all that went before. If only the whole had been as surprising as those powerful few minutes, I would have totally embraced “The Cure.”

     However, all of the film is not equal. First, it runs far too long. At two hours and twenty-six minutes, one gets very tired of moments that seem to have already happened once, twice or three times. There should have been a editor somewhere saying, “This needs to be cut.”

     One perfect example of this is the scene when Lockhart and Hannah go down to the town below the mountain top spa where they reside. That whole scene does nothing to enhance the overall story and there is more discovery at the spa which is more interesting than a tavern where nothing significant happens.

     Then there is the problem of the treatments. There are a lot of varieties of these. There are also questions about whether the treatments are real or dreams of the patients. Almost none of these treatments are as interesting as the early scenes of the film or the climax. Basically, there is about seventy-five minutes that are redundant and disappointing.

     However, that is not the biggest problem of the film. The trailer for “The Cure for Wellness” is strange and creepy with hints of terror.  When something scares me in the theatre, and I am often scared, chill bumps run up my leg. I do not know if anyone else has this sensation, but I do. It never happened in this film. Judging from the trailer, I expected many chills. At nearly two and half hours, there should have been something that physically scared me at least once every fifteen minutes. That would mean nine or ten good scares. There were none. The subject matter had produced no frights for me or anyone else in the theatre as far as I could tell.

     My teenage son, who loves scary movies, almost went to “The Cure for Wellness” with me. When I came home the first question he asked, “Was it scary?” And I had to say, “No. You would have been disappointed. It was weird and bizarre but no real scares.”

Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.


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