“Gerald’s Game” – an adaptation of Stephen’s King book directed by Mike Flanagan – is a very dark story, but its darkness comes neither from extremely brutal events that create action nor from dangerous characters that the protagonist, Jessie (very good Carla Gugino), meets, but from the hallucinations of the woman’s vexed imagination that in extreme conditions reveals what before was repressed.
Jessie and her husband Gerard (great Bruce Greenwood) decide to spend a romantic weekend in their lovely summer house in a remote area. The man wants to surprise his wife and add a little bit of piquancy to their rather static and predictable sex life. He handcuffs Jessie and wants her to play the role of s trapped victim that calls for help. Unfortunately, the woman doesn’t share Gerard’s passion for sexual violence (doesn’t matter – real or only stage), and his reaction to her objection is pretty disappointing and even makes you think that Flanagan’s movie will be an intimate thriller about a husband who mistreats and prisons his wife. The situation changes when the man totally unexpectedly gets a heart attack and loses consciousness in front of Jessie that remains trapped. The entire movie concentrates on the woman who desperately tries to free herself and when fighting against merciless matter, has to face demons from the past. To be free, the protagonist must not only find a way to open handcuffs, but also to win against monsters that live in her memory and turn her into a sun that is permanently overshadowed by the moon.
The story, written by Stephen King, seems to be very unrealistic and realistic at the same time. As the story develops and the darkness enlarges its territory, we get the feeling that the whole plot is contrived and ridiculous, but at the same time it’s hard to forget that the most absurd nightmares are keep coming true, because life is a pretty brutal and creative director. The protagonist is surrounded by objects that potentially could help her. She sees her phone and even the keys to the handcuffs, but cannot reach them, which on the on hand multiplies the absurdity of entire situation, on the other – becomes a metaphor of existence that is made of false hopes and opportunities that must be wasted.
The title game takes place inside the mind of the main character, and her participants are herself and the viewers that have to guess what is real and what is made up, what is reminiscence and what is a pure fiction/delusion. Jessie talks with herself, but directing a performance in her mind’s theatre. Not only Gerald and her father are playing main roles in this play that can be also described as a self-therapy, but also her alter-ego and herself from the past. The dramaturgy is based on the rule of saying loud what before was unspoken, forgotten or rather stifled. In a situation in which the protagonist has nothing to lose, she becomes brave enough to face monsters of the post and fight for a sun.
The whole movie is based on emotions and fears of the protagonist and that’s why Carlo Gugino remains in the centre of every scene. The actress makes the entire drama even more intense, but – what’s important – she doesn’t make her character too theatrical. She is really great in performing a heroine that alone must break out of the deadly trap. Locked in her own mind, paralyzed by fears and illusion that are overproduce by her desperate head, she is force to cross both – psychological and physical limitation to not only safe her life, but also make peace with the past and move on.
“Gerald’s Game” is also a very universal story, or maybe even a parable, about a woman that was hurt by men, but found a power to fight the oppressive structures that she was trapped in and emancipate. Written by King and directed by Flagan story can be – last but not least – understood as a metaphor of mental prison and being handcuffed by traumatic experiences. The director manages to balance between horror, thriller and psychological drama and to avoid simplifying.