Kevin Bacon as Theo Conroy
Amanda Seyfried as Susanna
Avery Essex as Ella
Geoff Bell as Angus
Written and Directed by David Koepp
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You Should Have Left Review:
David Koepp may be best known for his work in the field of blockbusters, helping introduce audiences to the majesty of Jurassic Park, the thrills of Mission: Impossible and the webslinging world of Spider-Man, but he has explored the world of psychological horror in the masterful Stir of Echoes and solid Secret Window adaptation. The 57-year-old screenwriter/director is trying his hand again at the genre with a film adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s 2017 novel You Should Have Left and unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to his past work.
Theo Conroy is a successful middle-aged man whose marriage to his much younger actress wife, Susanna is shredding at the seams, frayed by her secretiveness, his jealousy and the shadow of his past. In an effort to repair their relationship, Theo and Susanna book a vacation at a stunning, remote modern home in the Welsh countryside for themselves and their six-year-old daughter, Ella. What at first seems like a perfect retreat distorts into a perfect nightmare when Theo’s grasp on reality begins to unravel and he suspects that a sinister force within the house knows more than he or Susanna have revealed, even to each other.
The film’s source material is certainly full of similarities to Stephen King’s iconic 1977 novel The Shining but thanks to a story that blurs the line between reality and hallucination and keeping many of its answers in the dark, it proved to be an intriguing venture and though the film keeps some of the story threads, it loses a lot of these quality elements. There are a few aspects of the novella that could’ve proven hard to bring to life on screen or too vague for general audiences, but what we’re given instead is a script full of unlikable characters and over-explanation that proves uninteresting.
Unlike the source material’s characters of a screenwriter, his wife and daughter heading to the home for a working vacation for the father, audiences are instead given this melodramatic mystery of an ambiguously wealthy guy married to a much younger actress who may or may not have killed his first wife. With attempts at meta commentary on sex scenes, followed by sex scenes with incredibly cringeworthy dialogue, and trying to blend in a relationship drama into the mix, the script feels really uninteresting and unoriginal.
There is a nice moodiness to the film’s build-up to its terror and mind-bending madness, but the problem is that’s all the film really proves to be. The scares are few and far between, and aren’t really very effective, with all of the mind games becoming numbing and predictable. A good psychological thriller makes audiences question what’s real and what isn’t and Koepp proved in the Johnny Depp-starring adaptation of Stephen King’s 1990 novella he knew how to tap into that balance, but here every hallucination and nightmare feels so straightforward it might as well be an entry in Wes Craven’s long-running slasher franchise.
Despite Bacon and Seyfried being two talented stars, the performances they deliver in the film just reek of the duo lacking any real connection or interest to the material. I can’t quite say Bacon gives it his all, because his all is actually typically powerful or compelling stuff, but he finds this weird realm in between of trying to elevate the material while simultaneously giving up halfway through and just making it through the production. Seyfried’s character isn’t one with a lot of agency or even a relatively interesting arc and it shows in her performance as the 34-year-old star seems uncaring in her work in the role.
You Should Have Left was a novella with loads of potential for a thrilling and intriguing psychological thriller and David Koepp has delivered a number of thrilling films over the years, but his latest effort proves to be a lackluster, dull and thoroughly clichéd affair with poor performances, resulting as another misfire for Bacon and Blumhouse.