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Urban

'Asylum'
(Natasha Richardson, Hugh Bonneville, et al / DVD / R / (2005) 2006 / Paramount Pictures)

Overview: 'Asylum' stars Natasha Richardson in an unsettling psychological thriller about the repressed, 1950s wife of a psychiatrist (Hugh Bonneville) and her affair with a convicted killer (Marton Csokas). Stella (Richardson), Max (Bonneville), and their son Charlie (Gus Lewis) move to a high-security psychiatric hospital, where the priggish Max joins the staff and hopes to ascend, in time, to the top spot, replacing the soon-to-retire hospital director (Joss Ackland). Standing in Max's way is another doctor, Cleave (Ian McKellen), who takes a quiet yet somehow sinister interest in unhappy Stella's apparent attraction to Edgar (Csokas), a connection that will lead to more than one sorrowful end.

DVD Verdict: Stella Raphael (Natasha Richardson) is a troubled woman. Repressed and bored, she's the long-suffering wife of a mental hospital's deputy director, Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville). It's the late 1950s, and Stella's marriage to Max is a case study in dreariness and boredom. A puritanical psychiatrist, Max treats Stella like she's an undeserving servant, an excess piece of baggage there to fulfill Max's own whims. Max has just landed an apparently cushy job at a British asylum outside London, and he expects Stella to not only fit in with all the other psychiatrist wives, but also do her best to make sure that his tenure at the hospital is made permanent. Their young son Charlie (Gus Lewis) gives Stella much pleasure, but there's still something missing in her life; it's just not enough to spend her days planning parties for the inmates and gossiping with her colleagues. Her redeemer comes in the form of the enigmatic loony hunk Edgar (Marton Csokas), a sexy, handsome, brooding brute of a sculptor who once decapitated his wife for seeing other men. At first, Edgar helps Stella in her household chores, and becomes a playmate to young Charlie, but before long Stella is putting fresh lipstick on, swigging back the scotch for courage, and searching Edgar out for afternoon trysts in the rundown green house with hospital guards or family only scant hidden yards away. The physical encounters are raw and sexual, with both of them unleashing all their bottled up frustrations and desires. Soon they are falling in love, both perhaps unaware that the affair can lead nowhere. Their fanatical obsession for one another soon gets the better of them, with Stella contemplating leaving her husband and child, while Edgar manages to escape, seeking refuge in the back alleyways of London. Based on the book by Patrick McGrath, the film is well acted - particularly by the hunky Csokas, as the brooding and virile Edgar - and it's tightly directed, but it doesn't totally capture the furtive and darkly psychological nature of its source material. Whilst the film is no doubt compelling, and some of it is down right hot, the lust is sometimes overwrought and the passion dynamics often contrived and it all ends up coming across as something resembling psychosexual Harlequin romance, It's like an entertaining and darkly ironic potboiler melodrama, with a lunatic hunk at its center. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.75:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of just English Subtitles.
www.paramount.com/homentertainment





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