GERALD’S GAME, the latest film from director Mike Flanagan, is a powerful and devastating look into the terror surrounding isolation, relationships, and long forgotten secrets. The film, which is an adaptation based on the novel by Stephen King, stars Carla Gugino, in one of her best roles to date, as well as Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas, and Carel Struycken.
Prior to watching GERALD’S GAME, I read a bit of the book to familiarize myself with the source material; however, I clearly did not read enough because holy shit was this film intense. The movie starts off by introducing us to Jessie and Gerald Burlingame, a married couple who have taken a trip to their remote lake house in hopes of reinvigorating their declining marriage. While there, Gerald dies unexpectedly and Jessie must fight for survival while handcuffed to the frame of their bed.
The primary focus of this film is on Jessie, which means that the majority of the movie is carried on the shoulders of Carla Gugino, who does a brilliant job of portraying a woman who is quite literally shackled to the life she has been leading and is now forced to come face to face with the choices she’s made. It’s heartbreaking to watch, especially when the truths of her past begin to rear their ugly head. It’s these moments that allow the viewer insight into why she is so agreeable to her husband’s demands and personality. As for Gerald, played expertly by Bruce Greenwood, I found myself hating him with every ounce of my being. From his smug persona to his chauvinistic and entitled cockiness, there were legit moments when I wanted to punch him through the television. I could write a whole article on my disdain towards Gerald and how his character perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the majority of men throughout society, but that’s not what this review is about. As for Henry Thomas, do not even get me started on his character, as I cringe in disgust every time I think of what he was capable of doing.
Though my descriptions of the characters may seem as though I didn’t like the film, the reality is far from this. Flanagan is a master at his craft and he shows that in spades with GERALD’S GAME. I’ve been of fan of his work since I first watched Absentia, a film that is completely underrated in my eyes. Though that was the film that brought Flanagan’s work to my forefront, GERALD’S GAME is truly his masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, this film is extremely difficult to watch at times, but Flanagan’s vision and persistence in showing the strength that Jessie possesses overtakes even the most difficult moments presented. There is expert care given to this film and where it could have easily become a movie that was based solely on shock factors, it ends up becoming something much more beautiful and thought provoking. Though initially we see a weak woman, beaten down from neglect, and casted aside by men in her life, we instead see her grow into her confidence and strength to the point where she finds her own voice.
There are moments of terror that surpass just the relationship aspect. There was an even a few moments where a part of me seized up because I was so shaken with what happened. This is not a conventional horror film in regards to monsters under the bed or supernatural entities possessing innocent bystanders. The horror comes from what humans can be capable of and honestly, those are the moments that are truly terrifying. Those who are not comfortable with sexual assault to adults and minors should be aware that there are moments that showcase both of these.
Overall, GERALD’S GAME has easily skyrocketed to the top of my list for best films of 2017. Netflix has a true gem on their hands with this film and Flanagan should be incredibly proud with what he has created. Not all Stephen King books get adapted in a way that celebrates the author’s vision, but Flanagan is able to do this while making sure to add in his own unique style. With a cast that is outstanding and a story that brings to light issues that should be discussed more often, GERALD’S GAME has easily become my favorite Stephen King adaptation. This is a film you will not want to miss so make sure to check it out when it’s released exclusively on Netflix September 29.
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