Dr. Miranda Grey works at a psychiatric facility for the criminally insane. Married to the director and playfully arguing with her colleague, Pete Graham, Miranda has a fairly good life. While traveling home one day in the pouring rain, she crosses a bridge and crashes after almost hitting a girl. When she gets out of the car and checks on her, the girl suddenly goes up in flames. The next thing she knows, Miranda is back at the psychiatric facility but now she is a patient. Unable to reconcile the fact that she is being told she murdered her husband and had been brought in for observation and investigation, she continues to have strange incidents and visions. The image of the girl seems to follow her around and directly interact with her, either in the form of physical manipulation or control of her environment. As time passes and as she continues to further her relationship with fellow patient, Chloe Sava, Miranda realizes there is a reason she is being haunted by this girl’s ghost.
Starring: Halle Berry (Dr. Miranda Grey), Robert Downey Jr. (Pete Graham), Charles S. Dutton (Dr. Douglas Grey), John Carroll Lynch (Sheriff Ryan), Bernard Hill (Phil Parsons), Penelope Cruz (Chloe Sava), Dorian Harewood (Teddy Howard), Kathleen Mackey (Rachel Parsons), Andrea Sheldon (Tracey Seavers)
Halle Berry has had an interesting career with ups and downs when looking at her list of films. Gothika happens to be one of her better films to show her acting range. While she is fairly plain toward the beginning of the story, the moment following the supernatural infusion stretches her abilities to express fear, confusion, anger and, later, determination. As she goes from lost in the madness of her life getting turned upside down to inquisitive about the cause of her incarceration, she expresses a growing confidence and determination that matches the progression of the story. Robert Downey Jr plays a strong supporting role as her colleague turned doctor, who is a bit less dramatic than in other films but complements rest of the cast. As the husband and person of conflict, Charles S. Dutton surprises viewers through a performance that masks his character’s true intentions. Patient turned peer Penelope Cruz may not change her personality much throughout the movie, but the design of the story allows her character to seem insane at the beginning, misunderstood in the middle and somewhat healed toward the end. Similar to Dutton, John Carroll Lynch (Sheriff Ryan) does a great job with hiding his intentions until the story starts to unfold.
Mathieu Kassovitz’s film may have started out as a few ghost stories but were merged together to form a greater tale of psychological madness. There is certainly a supernatural element of this film, but Kassovtiz does an admirable job with creating a sense of mystery between images and actions. When Miranda’s interaction with the girl turning into flames lands her back in the psychiatric facility, she first starts out without additional visions. After she spends a little time as a patient, the “ghost” comes backs and starts to follow her with the intention of convincing her of the same supernatural interactions her former patients had expressed. Clearly dealing with the ghostly influences, her doctors and former peers simply see her as completely mentally deteriorated. The ghost manipulates her body by scratching the words “Not Alone” into her arm and throws her around her cell, but also takes control of her environment though the flickering of lights and manipulation of her car.
The display of her perspective as a doctor and a patient is an interesting comparison. As a doctor, she is well respected and unquestioned in her mental stability. After she is suspected of murder and becomes the patient, she is distrusted, ignored and ridiculed. When the scribed words “Not Alone” as discovered on her arm, she is seen as a threat to herself. While this initial judgment is not a surprise, a similar reaction occurs when she is meeting with the police and reviewing the pictures from the scene of the crime and her arm starts to mysteriously bleed again. Her ghost helps to give her the ability to escape the incarceration but it appears that even her former friend, Pete, is distrusting of her explanations for the odd behavior and lack of memory of the murder.
It is not the best film in Berry’s or Cruz’s careers, but both actresses give solid performances in an entertaining story of the supernatural. Besides the conclusion, the ghostly influence meshes well to keep you guessing but comes up a little short when driving toward the conclusion.
Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5