starring Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen, Hugh Bonneville, Gus Lewis
screenplay by Patrick Marber and Chrysanthy Balis, based on the novel by Patrick McGrath
directed by David Mackenzie
by Walter Chaw Director David Mackenzie's follow-up to his stygian Young Adam is the stygian Asylum, based on a Patrick McGrath (Spider) novel that draws, again, upon a young McGrath's experiences as the son of the medical superintendent for Britain's Broadmoor Prison for the Criminally Insane during the late-1950s, when Freudian analysis was the rule and sway. ("Axe murderers and schizophrenics were my pram pushers," McGrath says.) Moments of sun in the picture--shot all in greens and shadow--are illusions within the walls of the asylum to which new administrator Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife Stella (Natasha Richardson) have arrived, a pale yellow glow indicating a path to right reason and an unnatural dusk leading down a hall to madness and bedlam. It is what the provocatively-named head shrink Dr. Cleave (Ian McKellen) would refer to as a "problem with passion," and as part of their first, vaguely flirtatious meeting, Stella will ask Cleave if he's so afflicted. Pinched silence is the answer--and by the end, once Dr. Cleave has shown how a lack of passion has twisted his interiors, it becomes clear that silence is perhaps the best answer to questions of the heart.