Twin gynecologists take advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart, but when an actress comes to their clinic for advice the twin’s relationship and balance begins to fall apart.
I’m a big Cronenberg fan, and this might be my favorite of his films. While I really do enjoy his body horror films (“The Fly”, “Videodrome”, “Scanners”, to name a few), I find that his more psychological films work even better for me. This film is disturbing not because of the graphic nature of the things that happen, but because of the destructive behavior we witness and the deranged hole down which Beverly and Elliot Mantle (Jeremy Irons, “Reversal of Fortune”) fall, all because of the actress Claire Niveau (Genevieve Bujold, “Coma”). Jeremy Irons gives one of the most amazing performances of his career as both Elliot and Beverly, playing two men with subtle differences so you- the viewer- are able to tell them apart based on body language and mannerisms. Cronenberg is at the top of his game with this entry, having co-written and directed this film, I find it to be one of his subtler, more emotional, and darker entries.
“Separation can be a terrifying thing.”
Since the days of their youth, Elliot and Beverly Mantle have been inseparable; they attended the same university, studied gynecology together and immediately showcased their talents by inventing a new kind of surgical tool, after college they opened their own practice and continued their work. They take turns being each other, doing the things that the other one doesn’t like doing. Beverly is the more introverted and sensitive of the twins, while Elliot is the more extroverted and self-centered. When famous actress Claire Niveau comes to their clinic asking for advice on why she can’t have children, the twins quickly swoop in to be with her. As Beverly actually starts to fall in love, Elliot finds out that Claire has a drug problem, and believes that she might just be hustling them for pills.
So I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to this over the course of this review but Jeremy Irons is the real show-stealer here. He flits back and forth from Bev to Elliot without any flaw. The little things he does with his body language and facial expressions make it easy to discern who is who. The most impressive thing about his performance is that, especially at the beginning, the viewer finds it easy to both like and hate Irons. A lot of that has to do with the way the characters are written as well. Beverly is an extremely likeable character, while Elliot is far more cold and calculated. It’s also easy to see how they work well as a team, and it’s also easy to see how the balance that they’ve achieved might make their lives easier (though they are deceiving people). I actually really like the fact that Cronenberg chose to include the opening scenes of the twins growing up, it really emphasizes their inseparability and makes it feel less weird. These are two men that have literally lived their entire lives together, so though it might feel strange to find out that they live in the same apartment, it makes sense for their characters. The entirety of this film is based around the fact that the two of these brothers do not know how to live without one another, even if that connection is destructive to both of them.
Where this film really starts to show its brilliance is during the second act as the twins really start to fall apart. I don’t want to go too much into the details of how they fall into a downward spiral other than to say that the drugs Claire takes are a huge factor. As one twin spirals, the other tries to even out the tailspin by trying to find a kind of balance. It’s not only incredibly disturbing, but it’s also incredibly sad to watch these characters tear their lives apart, culminating in the most depressing birthday party ever. The characters near the end of the film are nothing like who they were at the beginning, and it’s really emotional. I genuinely like Beverly and Elliot’s characters, despite all their flaws- and that really speaks to the talents of the writing and directing, and again, Irons’ acting. This film is not happy by any means, but it is a brilliantly conceived film that is executed in a way that just drags you right into the heart of the story and doesn’t let go.
As I said above, this might be my favorite Cronenberg film (between this and “Spider” probably- but he’s got three or four other movies that might make my top 100); it’s a movie that I’ve watch a few times now, and every time I’ve been impressed with the acting and the writing, and every time I’ve felt emotional as we near the end. Cronenberg and Irons are both brilliant, and this movie showcases their unbelievable talents in a way that is both poetic and haunting.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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