stonehearst

“Believe nothing you hear, and only one-half that you see.”

Pulled right out of a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, these words play in the beginning of the film and act as an ominous warning, foreshadowing surprises to come.

The film begins on Christmas Eve in 1899, with Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) arriving at Stonehearst Asylum to study under the superintendent, Dr. Lamb (Ben Kingsley). He is immediately taken with one of the patients, a young, beautiful Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale).

Stonehearst Asylum is not like any other, as Edward quickly realizes. Dr. Lamb has done away with the harsh, inhumane tactics of his predecessor, Dr. Salt (Michael Caine). Instead, the patients are allowed to roam free. They can eat with the staff, and are encouraged to take up instruments and other hobbies instead of being forced to down drugs and endure degrading treatments.

The staff even gives in to patients’ illusions, like a particular case of a man who believes himself to be a horse. When Edward questions why they don’t try to cure him, Dr. Lamb is quick to reply, “Why make a miserable man out of a perfectly happy horse?”

Edward begins to ignore his Oxford-learned instinct and give in to Dr. Lamb’s new methods. However, one night he hears a strange noise coming from the vents, and it threatens to throw his idyllic experience through a loop.

The film plays with the intricacies of insanity, and what it really means to be (or not be) insane. It also brings up the ever-raging debate; do the means justify the ends?

With a star-studded cast and source material stemming from a renowned classic, Stonehearst Asylum is not your typical asylum movie. Despite a few moments of earnest profession, that may come off a bit dramatic, it’s generally entertaining — especially for the twists and turns it takes you on.

Between the old-fashioned costumes, the genuine surprises, and a fight scene that is one of the most awkward, hilarious attempts at bravado between two men captured on film in a while, it’s certainly worth a watch.

Stonehearst Asylum hits theaters October 24.