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USA 2009
Directed by
Emily Young
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Veronika Decides To Die

Veronika Decides To Die is a hodge-podge of a film that lacks a focussing idea. Made by a British director with an American crew, it seems at times to be a character-driven drama about mental disintegration, at other to be a kind of contemporary horror film about the goings on in some neo-Gothic mental asylum. 

Based on the Paulo Coelho novel of the same name Sarah Michelle Gellar who achieved stardom in TV’s Buffy,The Vampire Slayer, attempts to reinvent herself as a legitimate actress as Veronika, a career single who tries to kill herself after deciding that life as she knows it isn’t worth the candle. She fails in her attempt to overdose, spends a couple of weeks in a coma then wakes up in a mental institution where she is told by the head psychiatrist, Dr Blake (David Thewlis), that she has damaged her heart and is going to die pretty soon. This latter suggestion may have seemed less problematic in the context of the novel but as delivered by Dr Blake with remarkable sang-froid it seems far from probable, not least medically as Veronika swallowed a few prescription pills not a tub of crack cocaine.

This kind of approximation dogs Young's film. In another scene a fashion magazine lawyer turns up to persuade Veronika to withdraw her criticism of its shallowness. But why we don’t know. There seems to have been some kind of sub-plot here that got left on the cutting room floor. So why leave that snippet in? Presumably to cast doubts about Dr Blake’s methods. To this purpose we get treated to some suggestive scenes of patients being injected with unknown substances and stereotypical loons wandering the corridors of what otherwise appears to be an upmarket rest-home. But this too fizzles out and instead we get a romance between Veronika and Edward (Jonathan Tucker), a handsome young patient who has refused to speak to anyone....until... Yes, the result is hackneyed to say the least.

Veronika Decides To Die comes across as well-meaning telemovie, definitely not the vehicle to get Gellar onto the big screen.




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