Netflix is back with a thriller just in time for Halloween. The aerial cinematography in the opening scene is Breathtaking, in stark contrast to the opening dialogue, where it’s clearly apparent that husband Ray and his wife Joanne are two people whose marriage is in crisis.
In fact the whole film is a masterclass in how to shoot on film. The interesting camera angles Director Brad Anderson has chosen, he’s added a slightly greyish and dark tone to the picture itself, which casts another layer of suspense and gives a morose feel to the film. Within the first 10 minutes after the family stop at a service station, there’s a horrific fall. Their daughter Peri catches sight of a silver balloon, blowing in the wind and as she walks towards it, she spies a wild dog who advances on her and terrified she starts to back away perilously close to the edge of a deep pit near a construction site. When Ray realizes Peri is in danger, he tries to distract the dog by throwing a large stone at it, but it instead it scares Peri and she falls backwards into the pit with Ray hurling himself into the pit after her. The muffled screams of Joanna thinking her child has died after falling into the pit with her father are indeed truly upsetting but at the same time you are totally enthralled by the visuals and the now dark turn of events the narrative has taken. The music also needs a mention here, the discord of the piano notes and high-pitched white noise propel you into the mind of Ray who’s since fallen into some kind of trance. When he comes to and realises his daughter is in fact alive but has a broken arm, he snaps into action and it’s now a white-knuckle race to the hospital. After arriving at the hospital he tries to check them in with some considerable persistence from Joanne for them to get seen quickly as Peri is in pain. Ray quickly realises something is off with this hospital, the receptionist, the patients in the waiting area, the Doctors and the emergency staff all seem a little off kilter. Eventually Ray and his family are wheeled through to see the Doctor we see the same sliver get well soon balloon as we saw at the gas station. As Dr. Berthram is explaining that Peri will need a costly procedure Ray slips into his trance like state again before snapping out of it and informing the Dr. to do whatever it takes to get Peri well again but declines the Doctor’s offer to get the cut to his head looked at.
Peri and Joanne are taken down for a CT scan on the lower level floor of the hospital. Ray says his goodbyes to them and lets them know he’ll be waiting for them when they’re finished. However, the music suggests something else is afoot, something altogether more sinister. A short time has passed and we find Ray back in the waiting area waking up from a nap and something seems odd to him about his surroundings. The cut to his head, now has a plaster on it, everything’s changed. I should say at this point in the film, we get the impression that Ray believes organ harvesting is taking place at the hospital and we get small glimpses of Doctors wheeling away organ transportation boxes and Ray is convinced Joanne and Peri are next in line.
It’s clear after a few tense exchanges with the new receptionist that the hospital has no record of Peri ever being admitted or indeed of Joanne and Peri even setting foot in the hospital and with every staff member denying having seen his family, Ray’s frustration and aggression start to get the better of him and needs to be restrained for his own safety. A nurse who we saw earlier on with Peri and Joanna informs the Doctor in charge that she remembers Ray from this morning being treated for a head injury, but that he came in alone. Now, as the viewer we’re flummoxed, has Ray’s head injury caused him to imagine this whole incident and he’s now in the throes of a psychotic breakdown? (After all, we find out that his first wife and unborn child died in a car accident 8 years ago.) So, is he possibly experiencing a form of delayed or misplaced grief? Or is there something amiss with this hospital? The film does a good job of keeping us on this tightrope of “are they or aren’t they” caper, but we’re well into the second half of the film so we deserve a bit more credence with the narrative.
At this juncture we have to talk about grief and trauma because for the most part they go hand in hand. For Ray to lose both his wife and unborn child all at once is enough to derail the strongest among us but for Ray, a recovering alcoholic the stakes are high. At the beginning of the film when we see him buying two miniature bottles of whisky at the gas station before getting back into the car with his wife and child. It is hinted at that Ray was in all likelihood driving under the influence at the wheel of the car that crashed, causing his first wife’s death. It’s almost as if history is determined to repeat itself and for many people this tragically tends to be the case. Psychiatrists describe it as a coping mechanism, as a way of feeling closer to the deceased person or the event itself. Some believe they can recreate the same sequence of events or situation but prevent the fatal incident from happening this time round.
He’s given a sedative and locked in a side room to sleep it off. Not letting the drugs get the better of him Ray turns rogue and injects himself with a load of adrenalin to counteract the sedative. The next three minutes are uncomfortable to watch as Ray’s body reacts to the large dose of adrenalin he’s just thrust into his body. The screeching music, the jerky camera movements and some great acting by Sam Worthington contribute to the fact that Ray now feels invincible, super human psyched-up for his full-on rampage through the hospital, but can he hold it together long enough to get some answers? We, the audience are desperate to know now too. Has he totally lost his mind or is the hospital and all their staff concealing the real truth from him?
Fractured starts to explore some interesting questions about ethics here, mind-altering drugs, indoctrination and the power of persuasion by people in authority; but it doesn’t fully see it through and you can’t help feeling that an opportunity was lost there.
Just when it seems that everyone in the hospital is against Ray, Dr. Jacobs the hospital psychiatrist is called in to help and she touches on the very real possibility that Joanne and Peri could still be at the site of the fall and hurt in some way and suggests they head out there with the police. She very gently plants us with the seed that the mind can go to unimaginable lengths to protect us from remembering the truth.
By this point Ray is a broken man and is struggling with reality and delusion. It’s hard to watch him relive the accident with Dr. Jacobs and his once very real and believable story now seems implausible and painfully unhinged.
When Ray turns vigilante taking a gun and locking Dr. Jacobs and the police officers at the gas station to return to the hospital, we find ourselves in a state of flux, are these the actions of loyal and devoted father who will stop at nothing to find his family or are they the actions of a deeply traumatised man, a widower, suffering the agony of PTSD and amidst a complete and utter mental breakdown? In the last 10 minutes of the film, the actual truth behind and whereabouts of Joanne and Peri are revealed and it is a genuinely shocking conclusion.
Fractured is definitely worth watching, beautiful cinematography and close-ups but the ending felt a but rushed and presumably could’ve come much earlier in the film allowing the latter half to really delve into and unpick Ray’s state of mind.
Fractured is now streaming on Netflix.