Anthony Hopkins

Elyse review – Anthony Hopkins turns psychiatrist in portrait of a troubled woman

Stella Hopkins directs her husband – but struggles to get the best out of her cast – in this uneven psychological drama

This peculiar, freakishly uneven but far from meritless psychological drama stars Lisa Pepper as the title character, a soigné but very intense woman in early middle age who seems both on the verge of nervous breakdown and under the influence of some kind of emotional malady. Elyse is married to Stephen Bridges (Aaron Tucker), a successful lawyer, and they have a young son (Griffin Thomas Hollander); the boy is largely looked after by the family’s housekeeper Julia (Julieta Ortiz) while Elyse drifts about through her day, browsing at bookshops, stroking donuts she doesn’t eat, all the while carrying a camera she barely uses even though she’s meant to be a photographer of some sort.

But the placid surface of this Los Angeleno style-magazine existence is suddenly broken by violent eruptions of temper from Elyse, directed mostly at Julia’s daughter Carmen (Tara Arroyave), who also lives with the Bridges and works for Stephen as an intern, as well as Elyse’s own mother Goldie (Fran Tucker), who Elyse accuses of plotting against her. Eventually, they manage to persuade Elyse to see a psychiatrist, Dr Lewis (Anthony Hopkins), and some clues as to what’s really going on begin to emerge. Suffice it to say that in a strange way this film is something of a gender-flipped companion piece to The Father, for which Hopkins just won an Oscar – only this time he’s a supporting character instead of the protagonist.

Unfortunately director Stella Hopkins, who also co-wrote the film with Audrey Arkins, doesn’t have comparable directorial skill to The Father’s Florian Zeller. The tonal shifts flicker like a strobe light, while the mannered use of black and white, with a later shift to full colour, comes across as pretentious and literal rather than evocative of the character’s inner state. And despite the fact that she’s married to Hopkins, Stella Hopkins seems to struggle with getting the best out of the other actors in her cast, whose performances range from the merely stiff to painfully hammy and embarrassing and back to just inept. Lead actor Pepper’s work runs the full gamut, even going so far as to be outright excellent in later scenes when her character is at her lowest ebb. The final reveal is so melodramatic and excessive it is faintly ridiculous, but there’s still a nugget of real emotional truth here in the film’s portrait of trauma and depression.

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