Reviewed on 2007 March 6
This is a very dark Cronenberg offering, and while the visuals are great and the acting is top-notch, it just didn’t do it for me.
Dennis Cleg, nicknamed Spider (Ralph Fiennes), is a recently released mental patient, coming to a halfway house as he tries to assimilate to life outside the asylum. Poor Spider can barely speak and here he is, sent to a home run by Mrs. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave). Mrs. Wilkinson is kind of a she-bear, and I suppose she needs to be firm in that environment, but her lack of warmth - the contempt she exudes — can’t be at all helpful. Worse, Spider’s childhood comes roaring back to him, displayed to us through his eyes.
The movie twists back and forth between Spider as an adult, viewing the events that ruined him, and Spider as a child (Bradley Hall). Spider dotes on his mum (Miranda Richardson) but his dad (Gabriel Byrne) seems to be more distant. One night Mother Cleg sends Spider to the pub to bring Daddy home for dinner, and Spider’s perception of his family, especially of his dad, is never the same.
What’s odd is, while the movie was confusing in parts, I realized what set Spider off (and had a pretty good idea of what really happened) before Cronenberg wanted to show us, and I felt cheated. I feel almost harsh criticizing it, because it is unique and very ambitious, and I thought parts of it were brilliant. There’s one scene where Spider hides under a bed, while little Spider sits on top of it. That’s as powerful a depiction of mental illness as I can think of. But the draggy pacing here - and I don’t mind slow pacing or long movies; I’d rather not have something be rushed — just didn’t work for me in this movie.
Two chocolate morsels.