A Cure for Wellness is a strange film to wrap my brain around as I attempt to write a comprehensive review and assign the film a number representing its “quality”.  While strange is certainly a fitting word for Gore Verbinski’s (2002’s The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) latest feature, it does the film absolutely no justice.  You may see me use words like strange, weird, bizarre, and so on and so forth, I just don’t know how else to describe exactly what I witnessed.  One clarification before I fully dive into the deep cavernous experience that is A Cure for Wellness. I need to point out that weirs and other such synonyms are good.  When I use those words it comes from a place of excitement that the filmmakers (as well as the studios and financiers) would take these risks, when the payoff could be very minimal.  Look no further than the films opening weekend and how poorly it performed- earning an estimated $4.2 million from 2,704 theaters.  With a reported $40 million budget, the film will struggle to earn back its money, which is a shame because movies like this need to be made.  In a time of $200 Blockbusters or $2 million indies, we need mid-level budgeted movies.  This is especially true with A Cure for Wellness– while it has many flaws, it’s refreshing to see a movie like this still can be made in 2017.

So what exactly is A Cure for Wellness about?  Well, to keep the things as simple as possible I refer to the official IMDB synopsis (plus I’m too lazy to write my own):

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.

Dan DeHaan (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines) stars as the ambitious Wall Street exec Lockhart, who’s sent on a mission to retrieve the CEO of his firm from a remote rehabilitation center isolated in the Swiss Alps.  There he meets Dr. Heinreich Volmer, played by Jason Isaacs (Lucius in the Harry Potter series), the lead doctor in charge of the entire facility.  Let’s just say strange things begin to happen to Lockhart as things appear darker than the surface level within the institution.  Any more plot analysis would harm you (the reader’s) enjoyment of this film.  You just need to know the set-up, and buckle into the twists and turns A Cure for Wellness will take the viewers through the eyes of our protagonist Lockhart.

The most striking thing about the film is its visual ascetics.  Say what you will about Verbinski’s storytelling methods, the guy can shoot a visually striking movie.  Was his last film 2013’s The Lone Ranger any good?  No.  But it sure looked beautiful.  A Cure for Wellness is a slightly better film with beautiful images and imaginative use of camera work.  Besides just making the film look “cool”, the visuals help aid in the descent taken on by our main character Lockhart.  Things are bright and shiny while in New York, but as he approaches the Swiss Alps things begin to change.  The change doesn’t happen quick however.  While I appreciate not rushing into the craziness, the plot structure is a bit off.

Things take too long to to materialize, and at a hefty 146 minutes, its the opinion of the author that the filmmakers could have trimmed some of the fat.  I appreciate that the movie takes risks, especially not spoon feeding the audience your standard three act structure.  It helps in setting the tone and letting the audience learn about the characters.  Having said that, it doesn’t dive too deep into the characters as there seems to be almost no character development.  Just when you think you’re seeing growth of Lockhart for example, its quickly forgotten, and leaves him almost exactly how he was in the very beginning of the film.  At one point early on, Lockhart breaks his leg and spends almost the entire film on crutches.  If he had simply broken his arm, they could have shaved of 20-30 minutes and gotten a tighter film.  I’m joking of course, but despite trying new things, A Cure for Wellness ultimately falls a bit flat.

The script and the way the plot is delivered may have its problems, but beyond the beautifulness of the film the acting is superb.  DeHaan is absolutely captivating as the lead.  He’s able to convey so much emotion without words in a simple and extremely subtle way.  He hops around on crutches exploring the “wellness center” for half the film, yet he had my full attention.  Opposite DeHaan Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac: Vol. II, Everest) has many of the similar qualities.  She has a very unique look to her and the scenes between the two are exquisite and immensely intriguing as we (the audience) try to figure out just what the heck is going on.  Great casting all around.  It would have helped if the characters went through more change and some constant themes featured throughout were also fully fleshed out.  We could have had something truly special but it’s still not-to-shabby of an effort.

While not my favorite movie, I applaud the effort and the risks taken by the filmmakers to craft this weird beautiful thriller.  These types of films are a dying breed.  If you love movies, it’s important to support these types of outings.  A Cure for Wellness isn’t a property owned by Disney or some action figure/board game company, it’s its own thing.  We need more of this.  I picked some aspects of the movie apart but overall had a great experience watching it.  They made a weird movie with a mid-range budget.  Go see it.  Judge it for yourself.  But, go see it so we can keep getting these types of movies instead of 7 Paranormal Activity flicks (not trashing the franchise, its just enough already).

A Cure for Wellness is currently playing in theaters nationwide, and is worthy of a trip to the theater to experience it with an audience.




About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe

A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a “real” job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.