Movie Review: ‘Amnesiac’

Review by Tom Swift

Mad for a child, she will lobotomize her husband if electric shock therapy doesn’t work.

The secrets of a possible lobotomy or actual electric shock therapy are not really spoilers in a movie called Amnesiac, and those moments are just beats in a thematic pattern of female induced mindlessness. This well-made but somewhat sterile film, however, needs an edge to engage its misogyny– as much of its perfectly clear cinematography seems to exist underwater. Now that’s probably a filmic evocation of the mental state of amnesia. But the question is: is it entertaining?

Kate Bosworth identified as “Woman,” and Wes Bentley as “Man” are apparently in some kind of archetypal battle of the married sexes – with “Woman” characterized as someone who can get away with anything with her unsuspecting “Man.” And, from a fanzine perspective, this might even be more titillating. The director Michael Polish is married to Kate Bosworth. Given her character here, it might be fun to speculate if he sleeps well at night and does he forget his waking nightmares?

We start out with Man and Woman and Child (a teenage girl) involved in a terrible, unexplained car accident. Next we’re in a big sterile room in an empty Victorian house with Man in bed on monitors. Woman tends to him alone. We will learn eventually that she is a veterinarian who’s expert at putting living beings to sleep. Having suffered a bang on the head, he remembers nothing, but images of the teenager in the back seat of the car haunt him – whenever the story needs a jolt.

Creepy hallway and kitchen shots eventually lead to the basement. He can hardly walk due to the accident (yet another sterility issue). She spouts inane facts while touting “family.” She controls him with horse tranquilizers then wanders off to watch home movies of happy families. They mostly involve a happy little blonde girl she wants to be her. Woman is without “family” and won’t talk about her past. This saves us from the traditional “miserable childhood” speech – while denying us the reasons she’s such a nut case. Or is the point that all beautiful women are nutcases, motivation undefined?

We’re into Hitchcock territory here without the verve of his madness and the intricacy of his storytelling. Take away the last scene and the movie could have jumped through several more hoops before getting there — if it needed to get there at all. There’s just so much off kilter here: is it art, artifice or farce?

Moreover, Kate Bosworth and Wes Bentley are so chilly as actors that you will find yourselves torn between “Am I missing something?” and “Are the actors just playing hide and seek to move the movie along?”

The wallop in the Hitchcock films came from the inner workings under the surface. Yes, the ending here is a shock, but the film rests too heavily on the premise that “crazy women want babies but are more than willing to kill them if they have to.” “Man” here becomes man and child. He should have gotten a divorce.

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