— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
The novel “Veronika Decides to Die” can best be described as a modern-day “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” — its darker take on mental illness reflects on the times where clinical depression is on the rise for many reasons, including the economy. Just like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Paulo Coelho’s novel has been adapted for the big-screens with the fairly unknown Emily Young at the helm, and it’s an explicit example of why more of Coelho’s works should be turned into films.
The film follows Veronika Deklava (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a young woman in her mid-20s who has everything. Good looks, a good job and what seems to be a pleasant future ahead of her, but she still decides to end her life. The film doesn’t explain her reasoning for the attempted suicide, but merely shows that it happened. It sends an important message that it can happen to anybody, but luckily Veronika survives her ordeal — at the cost of damaging her heart. When she wakes up at a mental institution, she is told that she only has weeks to live.
Veronika realizes that she has nothing to lose and this begins her reawakening. She abandons the cynical nature that was displayed in the opening scene and falls in love with a schizophrenic named Edward (Jonathan Tucker). Her eyes open to pleasures of life despite the fact that she is dying due to the aftermath of her initial suicide attempt.
The main reason that the film works is because of the fine performances. Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose high point was playing Buffy on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” is amazing in the leading role. Jonathan Tucker, who only speaks a few lines throughout the entire film, is equally excellent as Veronika’s love interest. David Thewlis, who is known for his role as Remus Lupin in the “Harry Potter” series, also does a great job at playing Dr. Blake, Veronika’s psychologist.
Some of the content may prove too heavy for some audiences, but this is a topic that needs to be explored. Especially in such difficult times, when more and more people are taking anti-depressants. However, the film tries to send a message of hope even through its bleak nature and this may attract some movie-goers, but can hope really be achieved when you are running out of time? That is for you to decide.
In conclusion, “Veronika Decides to Die” is not a film for everyone. You won’t walk out of the theater in pure delight, but instead in quiet satisfaction. This is not the next “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but it does a great job at being a modern-day portrayal of the same topic, which is one that surely won’t disappear in the near future.
“Veronika Decides to Die” is scheduled to be released in 2010.
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