Elyse, written and directed by Stella Hopkins and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Lisa Pepper, debuts to VOD December 4. This film looks at mental illness from the wooden aspect of a patient.
Released from Margam Films and produced by Anthony Hopkins, it also stars Aaron Tucker, Tara Arroyave, Fran Tucker, Anthony Apel, Julieta Oritiz, and Danny Jacobs. Dante Spinotti was the Director of Photography
Elyse (Lisa Pepper) languidly meanders out of a cold, concrete, designer house mirroring a mausoleum, externalizing the spirit of her dead son, Cody. She returns home disoriented, unwilling to join the family dinner, misconceives the gathering as a threat to her private life, and is unwarrantedly infuriated with her egocentric mother, Goldie, (Frances Willard) and her devoted husband, Steven (Aaron Tucker). In a psychotic blackout, Elyse commits vehicular manslaughter of her son and his nanny, Julia. Elyse isn’t the only victim; her delusional thinking, narcissism, and violence annihilate her husband. Memory and hallucination intertwine to expose a history of trauma, revealing the truth: Elyse is catatonic and institutionalized in a state hospital. Elyse’s recovery is reliant on the dissolution of her marriage, the restoration of the relationship with her mother, and the mutual absolution with the nanny’s daughter, Carmen. It’s the care from Dr. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) and the unconditional love from her nurse, David, that promise Elyse a new life.
Any film with Sir Anthony Hopkins is sure to attract viewers’ attention. One wonders how an indie film could attract an Academy Award-winning actor of his caliber; until the credits roll. The director, co-writer, and one of the producers is Stella Hopkins, wife of Anthony Hopkins. Sir Anthony is one of the producers and he also wrote the music for the film.
Supporting his wife’s project is admirable, especially considering the topic of mental illness. Unfortunately, Anthony Hopkin’s performance was one of the few strong points the film managed to produce.
Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal as Dr. Lewis is stellar; he commands any scene that he is in, without going over the top. Anthony Apel’s portrayal of David, the nurse in the state hospital, was natural and believable. The rest of the acting was completely unbelievable, some bordering on amateurish. Lisa Pepper’s portrayal of the title role swings from wooden to unbelievably overly animated. Aaron Tucker as Elyse’s husband Steven felt forced and uncomfortable, as did Frances Willard, who played Goldie, Elyse’s mother.
The script misfired on multiple levels. Mental illness is not a new topic for films; Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind, James Mangold’s Girl Interrupted, and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island immediately come to mind. These films had depth, drawing viewers in to the struggle of the patients, and providing the right amount of Wow moments. The trailer for Elyselets viewers know that Elyse has some form of mental illness and hints at something unique, but the film did not live up to that promise. The pacing was slow, the dialogue sounded wooden and unnatural, and the storyline felt disjointed, out of kilter, and contrived. The film goes between the cold black and white scenes of Elyse’s skewed mind to colorful memories of her real life, neither of which were pleasant nor engaging. An interesting ploy, but after a while, it grows predicable.
One must extend kudos to any filmmaker with the drive and determination to put their vision on the screen. But there is a risk to such an endeavor; critics and viewers may not be kind with their response. Fans of Sir Anthony Hopkins will appreciate his role in Elyse, though there is not much else to recommend this film.
With a run time of 95 minutes, Elyse—which is not yet rated—contains coarse language and mature subject matter.