Edge

film review: Spider ***

Spider is a perfect film for the chronically depressed moviegoer nursing a fetish for the mentally ill. Its main subject is a man named Spider, played with a sort of withdrawn brilliance by Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List), who stumbles and mumbles through a story of perplexing mystery and heavy drama. The result is a movie exercising a sense of mood and timing that is entirely original.

Spider begins the film by checking into some kind of halfway house for the mentally distraught. His disorder is not immediately revealed, but it’s obvious that he has one, with a demeanor that mirrors an overly neurotic Woody Allen. Fiennes is the rare actor who can get away with having no understandable dialogue throughout an entire film and still give a superb, but more importantly, unpretentious performance.

A strict older woman runs the halfway house and this provides the work’s underlining setting and relationship. The only other place Spider visits is his surreal past, visualized by director David Cronenberg (The Dead Zone, Scanners) as a creepy place where the modern day Spider is a peeping Tom who observes his younger self and his troubled parents.

The idea is similar to “A Christmas Carol,” wherein the characters from the past don’t notice the main character’s eerie presence. A logical problem with these flashbacks is that Spider often follows his parents, played by Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game) and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), on their journeys away from the younger version of himself. Careful, sober viewers will detect that Spider doesn’t really know what occurred in these scenes, and can only imagine them. For those confused by the film, this is the key to placing together the plotline.

Nothing else really happens. Spider slips between his present residence in the halfway house and his past in a small, claustrophobic home. Newcomer Bradley Hall, whose ghostly white skin and delicate frame complement an impressive performance, plays the younger Spider. The character’s deep psychological complexity, as both child and adult, is the lingering accomplishment of the film.

Unlike A Beautiful Mind, Spider is unafraid to be consumed by the uneasy world of mental illness, obviously at the cost of entertainment. The film’s colors are grayed and worn, much like the minds of the men in the halfway house, and Cronenberg is certainly a master storyteller, even if, on the surface there’s not much of a story to tell.

The ending of Spider delivers the realization that’s been so carefully plotted from the first few minutes, and it’s satisfying enough to justify the extensive set up. Still, it’s so buried in depressed and repressed memories that it’ll leave many viewers thinking the film ends abruptly.
See Spider for its “case study” acting, Cronenberg’s haunting direction, and a plotline that challenges until the end, something not said for most of today’s releases. But if you and your date are in the mood for “lighter” mental illness fare, skip Spider and go rent the way funnier Tom Cruise flick Rain Man.

Shawn Wines can be reached at shawnwines@aol.com.

April 8, 2003

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Either the Miami Hurricanes get a collective adrenaline rush from heart-palpitating fourth quarters, ...

The question came straight at Ahmmon Richards, like a tight spiral. And this time, he didn’t hesitat ...

1. DOLPHINS: Miami seeks revenge vs. hated, Stinkin' Jets: Dolphins host Jets Sunday with Miami ...

Notes and observations on UM’s 27-19 win against Syracuse: • A UM source said Mark Richt seemed more ...

View photos from the Syracuse at Miami game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami G ...

Univeristy of Miami’s Wynwood Art Gallery holds its annual faculty exhibition featuring thought-prov ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

The Hurricanes grabbed four interceptions and another ACC victory as they defeated Syracuse, 27-19, ...

The Miami women's tennis team split its eight matches on its second day of competition at the I ...

As a Hurricane Club member, you are invited to participate in the 25th Annual University of Miami Ha ...

Syracuse visits Miami on Saturday, October 21st at Hard Rock Stadium. ...

Thirty years ago, the 1987 Hurricanes achieved perfection. This weekend they are back where it all b ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.