Set in the bucolic British countryside during the 1950's, this powerful film by David Mackenzie opens the door into the insular world of a post-war insane asylum complete with crumbling Victorian mansion and disturbing psychiatric practices. When Stella (Natasha Richardson) and husband Dr. Max Raphael (Hugh Bonneville) move into a cottage on the grounds it does not take long for the bright-spirited Stella to feel trapped in the enclosed environs of the hospital. Her interaction with the patients is minimal, and she chafes against her "wifely duties" of interacting with the other doctors' wives and with her husband's boss, played by the formidable Sir Ian McKellen. Soon she encounters Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas), a prisoner who is entitled to some liberties that allow him to work on the grounds of the asylum. As their affair blossoms, the pair moves from attraction to obsession. Stella seems powerless to put an end to the entanglement-even though she knows that he is in the asylum for killing his wife in a jealous rage. It is no surprise that nothing good comes from any of this, but Mackenzie, who teamed up with writer Patrick Marber (Closer) to create the script based on a novel by Patrick McGrath (Spider), has made a film that is a treatise on control and passion.
Film festivals worldwide have recognized the work of director David Mackenzie. His 2003 movie Young Adam, starring Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and Peter Mullan, had its world premiere at Cannes and opened the Edinburgh Film Festival where it received the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature. His first feature, The Last Great Wilderness premiered at Edinburgh in 2002. Mackenzie has also directed a number of award-winning shorts for the BBC and Channel 4, including Marcie's Dowry, which screened at Cannes Critics' Week in 2001.