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Spider (2002)

The only thing worse than losing your mind is finding it again.

Directed by:

David Cronenberg

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: France, Canada, United Kingdom

Ralph Fiennes stars as Dennis ‘Spider’ Cleg, a disturbed man suffering from schizophrenia who has been in an institution since he was child, but has now been released into a halfway house. When he was a boy, his world revolved around his mother (Miranda Richardson). When she became more involved in her husband’s interests in a desperate attempt to save her marriage, Spider sees it as abandonment. Her death resulted in his institutionalisation and he remained there for 20 years. He has to rely on his own memory of those childhood events, but they are clouded by his illness, drug treatments and the passage of time.

Over the years, Spider has created for himself a comforting story as to why his mother disappeared from his life, blaming his father Bill (Gabriel Byrne) for killing her. When he is finally released, he is mentally still that small boy. He is forced to come to terms with his past when he is placed in a halfway house in the same East London neighbourhood where he lived as a child. As he begins to remember the truth of the past, his carefully constructed fantasy starts to collapse and he has to learn that the issues surrounding the death of his mother were not as he remembered them. The truth will challenge his fragile grip on reality.

Stark and touching, Cronenberg’s latest offering is a beautiful but depressing journey into the mind of a disturbed man. The film is wonderfully made, as one would expect from this director, and the story is strong and emotionally draining although at times it does get a little slow and needs to move on with a little more purpose. There are plenty of hidden symbols and messages to explore, typical of this director’s work. Ralph Fiennes produces a poignant performance, but it is Miranda Richardson who is the real revelation in this film playing as she does all the significant women in Spider’s life. This is another Cronenberg masterpiece, although one that will not appeal to everyone – not even all of Cronenberg’s fans.

Based on the novel of the same name by Patrick McGrath.

It's Got: Plenty of atmosphere and depth.

It Needs: A bit more purpose at times.

DVD Extras Some interesting interviews come with this single-disc release. Extras: Interviews, Trailers, TV Spots. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

A Beautiful Mind., The Butcher Boy, The Man Who Wasn't There

Summary

Beautifully-made deep and moving story of one man’s struggle with his past and with mental illness.

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