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The titular character of this drama adapted from a best-selling novel by Paulo Coelho has been weighing her decision for a long time, as Veronika Decides to Die is only now getting a limited theatrical release and VOD run several years after playing the festival circuit. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and an uncommonly fine supporting cast including David Thewlis, Melissa Leo, Barbara Sukowa and Erika Christensen, the film directed by Emily Young is dead on arrival.
The story begins with Veronika (Gellar)—the spelling of her name presumably derives from the fact that the source material was set in Slovenia—attempting suicide via an overdose of pills and booze in lieu of continuing her prosperous but apparently spiritually unfulfilling life. Needless to say, the effort fails and she instead wakes up in an upstate New York mental asylum, where she’s informed that her overdose caused a heart attack and resulting aneurysm that will certainly kill her within a week or so.
“I have to wait that long?” she asks with a sly smile.
Unfortunately for both her and the viewer, she does. And rather than, let’s say, going home to put her affairs in order, she remains at the institution under the care of the soft-spoken Dr. Blake (Thewlis) who apparently feels the need to get to the root of her emotional problems in the short time she has left.
Along the way Veronika interacts with the other patients, including the seemingly permanent resident Mari (Leo); the metaphor-spouting Clare (Christensen); and the hunky but mute Edward (Jonathan Tucker), who not surprisingly becomes her love interest.
Proceeding at a glacial pace, the film bearing no small resemblance to the far superior Girl, Interrupted is mostly quietly muted, with the exception of such profoundly silly scenes as when Veronika, playing the piano for Edward, accompanies her performance by getting undressed and masturbating.
“I could fall in love with you right now,” she breathlessly tells him.
Gellar, who can’t seem to get a career break these days, is reasonably compelling, and Thewlis and Leo offer their usual solid support. But their efforts are undermined by the poorly written script, including a final plot twist that in real life would result in Thewlis’ character being sued for malpractice and losing his medical license.
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that by the film’s conclusion Veronika has discovered a newfound appetite for life. But then again, she didn’t have to sit through this movie.
Production: Das Films, Future Films, Muse Productions, PalmStar Entertainment, Velvet Steamroller Entertainment
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jonathan Tucker, Erika Christensen, David Thewlis, Melissa Leo
Director: Emily Young
Screenwriters: Larry Gross, Roberta Hanley
Producers: Jonathan Bross, Sriram Das, Chris Hanley
Executive producers: Robert Ogden Barnum, Simon Crowe, Ravi Dattatreya, Terry Douglas, Simon Horsman, Paris Kasidokostas, Stephen Margolis, Corinne Nordmann, Stephan Paternot
Director of photography: Seamus Tierney
Production designer: John Nyomarkay
Editor: Una Ni Dhonghaile
Costume designer: Frank L. Fleming
Composer: Michael Whalen
Casting: Sig De Miguel, Stepphen Vincent
No rating, 94 min.
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