Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Canada/United Kingdom, 2002. Odeon Films, , Artists Independent Network, Grosvenor Park Productions, Catherine Bailey Ltd., Téléfilm Canada, Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, Metropolitan Films. Screenplay by Patrick McGrath, based on his novel. Cinematography by Peter Suschitzky. Produced by Catherine Bailey, David Cronenberg, Samuel Hadida. Music by Howard Shore. Production Design by Andrew Sanders. Costume Design by Denise Cronenberg. Film Editing by Ronald Sanders. Cannes Film Festival 2002. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
After years spent in a mental institution, Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is released and sent to live in a halfway house in London. While there he revisits his memories of youth, remembering his family life with his kindly mother (Miranda Richardson) and adulterous father (Gabriel Byrne) in the years that led up to his incarceration. David Cronenberg’s film is shot impeccably and firmly edited down to the last tight screw, but Patrick McGrath’s screen adaptation of his own novel is absolutely deluded in thinking that it is in any way challenging: the story is perfectly linear and its secrets are obvious from the get-go. This film has been receiving rapturous international attention, presumably because it tries so much harder for subtlety than most films do (think A Beautiful Mind, but made for adults), but it never really achieves much. Fiennes does a great job with a very one-note, boring character, while Richardson absolutely shines as both the mother and whore of his memories. Her ability to bring believable, flesh-and-blood women to the screen gives us two fully realized characters that never sink in to caricature. Also stars Lynn Redgrave as the manager of Spider’s ghastly hotel.