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Original film poster
Directed by David Mackenzie
Produced by Mace Neufeld
David E. Allen
Laurie Borg
Written by Patrick Marber
Chrysanthy Balis
Starring Natasha Richardson
Marton Csokas
Ian McKellen
Sean Harris
Music by Mark Mancina
Cinematography Giles Nuttgens
Editing by Colin Monie
Steven Weisberg
Distributed by Paramount Classics
Release date(s) Germany 11 February 2005 (Berlin Film Festival)
United States 12 August 2005
Running time 99 minutes
Country United Kingdom/Ireland
Language English

This article is about the 2005 film, for the 1973 anthology film of the same title, see Asylum (1972 film).

Asylum is a 2005 drama film directed by David Mackenzie and made by Mace Neufeld Productions, Samson Films, Seven Arts Productions, Zephyr Films Ltd and released by Paramount Classics. It is based on the novel Asylum by Patrick McGrath and was adapted for the screen by Patrick Marber and Chrysanthy Balis.

It stars Natasha Richardson, Marton Csokas, Ian McKellen and Hugh Bonneville with a cast also including Sean Harris, Joss Ackland, Wanda Ventham, Maria Aitken and Judy Parfitt.

Plot summary

Asylum is the story of the bored and unfulfilled wife of a psychiatrist working at a remote mental asylum (in Britain in the very early 1960s), who starts a passionate but dangerous affair with one of the patients, a jealous psychopath. At first Stella is beguiled by the new world of passion and unchartered lust Edgar introduces her to and the pair manage to keep their affair secret from the mental asylum officials until Edgar can take it no more and breaks out of the asylum. Stella attempts to continue life without her lover, playing mother to her son, Charlie and wife to her husband, Max. She pays Edgar occasional visits, telling her husband she is shopping, but she soon realises that she is unable to continue doing this and if she wants to be with Edgar, she must sacrifice her family to do so. She runs away to join him, brashly and without thought one day, and she and Edgar begin a loose, somewhat bohemian life together, remaining out of the public eye for fear of police and Edgar being forced to return to the asylum. Dr. Cleave (Ian McKellen), who is fixated with Stella himself, also takes a personal interest in finding the couple. Soon, the lust of the relationship begins to wear off and Stella begins to see a darker side to Edgar's personality. He starts to become aggressive and violent both towards her and to friends and Stella begins to live in fear of him. After shopping one day, Stella returns to the pair's squalid studio flat to be found by police and taken back to her husband and son. Her husband struggles to forgive her but accepts that Charlie, their son, needs a mother figure and that Stella can care for him. Edgar observes Stella's capture from the shadows and flees. Stella struggles to settle back into 'normal' life with her family and often daydreams and fantasises of what life could be like if she was still with Edgar. A brief meeting with Edgar results in his capture and this sends Stella further into her thrown, distracted state. On a school outing with Charlie, some weeks later, Stella takes her son away from the class teacher and other children and they go into the woods together. Stella perches herself upon a rock while Charlie searches for fish in the river. He suddenly loses his footing, falling into the river and begins to drown. Not noticing, Stella remains in a trance, not moving to help him. The class teacher arrives and attempts to help him, but Charlie is already dead. Stella is anguished over this and following this trauma, her husband and Dr. Cleave decide that she needs to be institutionalised. Her husband cannot forgive her for this. She is taken to the same asylum she met Edgar at and where, though she does not know this, he is currently being held. With the help of constant medication and care, Stella gets 'better', though she never fully recovers. She accepts Dr. Cleave's offer of a stable relationship, much to his delight. At the annual ball, where male and female inmates are permitted to socialise, Stella wears the same dress she wore on the night she and Edgar shared their first dance. She is anxious to share another dance with Edgar and desperately looks forward to seeing him. Unbeknown to her, Dr. Cleave cannot resist gloating to Edgar about his relationship with Stella and forbids Edgar from attending the ball. After waiting in vain for Edgar to appear, Stella accepts a dance with Dr. Cleave, inquiring as to where Edgar is. Dr. Cleave informs her that Edgar will not be attending. As a nurse escorts patients back to their rooms, Stella sneaks off up a stairway leading to the roof. Before anyone notices she has gone missing, she throws herself off the roof tower but does not die as she intends. Dr. Cleave rushes to her aid but she rejects his help and he steps away from her, allowing her to die from her injuries.


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