Bottom of the Queue is a feature in which we uncover hidden gems, maybe sitting at the bottom of your Netflix queue, that deserve a chance.
This week I discovered Stonehearst Asylum. Okay, I admit it. Netflix made the recommendation for me. I can’t take all the credit. The name itself was intriguing enough for me. Set in the Victorian era, a doctor from Oxford makes a trip to Stonehearst Asylum to expand his knowledge and skill set in treating the mentally ill. Instead, he discovers much more…and “no one is what they seem.”
Dr. Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess), a newly Oxford graduate, shows up outside the gates of Stonehearst Asylum insisting to be let inside. After convincing the chief steward to open the gates, Newgate is taken to the office to meet the superintendent, Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley). Newgate claims he wants to observe their methods and help those filled with madness. Lamb takes Newgate on a tour of the asylum.
While introducing Newgate to different patients and explaining their afflictions, Lamb takes him to see an unusual mental patient. Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale) is a woman who begins to display contorted, full-bodied spasms when she feels she is inappropriately touched. This during a time when “inappropriate touching” could mean a touch of the arm. Dr. Newgate becomes enamored by Eliza’s beauty and poise, and doesn’t believe she fits the mold of a mental patient.
This movie has dual titles, Stonehearst Asylum and Eliza Graves. I did some research and discovered it’s also based on a short story, The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather, by Edgar Allan Poe (I love his tales of woe).
I found the medical tools and practices of the Victorian era fascinating to watch and Ben Kingsley was phenomenal, as usual. There is also a small part played by Michael Caine, who’s always a bonus to any film. Stonehearst Asylum was an interesting mix of the macabre, witty humor, and romance. My rule of thumb is if I can’t predict the outcome of a movie, then I know for sure it’s an excellent, well-made film. In that regard, Stonehearst Asylum didn’t disappoint.