Ralph Fiennes transfixes in this post-Freudian, Gothic psychological thriller. In 20th century Britain, Dennis, nicknamed "Spider," is released from an asylum and makes his way to a halfway house. One of the first scenes shows an array of passengers getting off a train. Spider gets off last, feet shuffling, perpetually astonished by the hustle and bustle of the world as well as the chaos culminating in his own head.
Spider speaks primarily in an incomprehensible mumble, so be sure to turn on your subtitles. Once he arrives at the halfway house, he is coldly greeted by Ms. Wilkinson (Lynn Redgrave), the nosy matron in charge of the establishment. He also meets Terrence (John Neville), a strange but friendly occupant, whose morbid anecdotes reflect Spider's own fractured mind.
But this film isn't about creating a new future. It's about a man who's stuck in the past, and his intricate and often inaccurate thought process. The halfway house is located near Spider's childhood home, and Spider begins to "follow" his younger self around. Young Spider (Bradley Hall), who is about nine or ten, lives in a poor part of town with his father (Gabriel Byrne), who likes to spend an awful lot of time at the bar, and his mother (Miranda Richardson), who despairs at their relationship. Spider loves his mum just a little too much, so much so that the name "Oedipus" comes to mind.
Spider is just fine having his mum to himself, but Spider's mum wants Dad back in the picture. Then the unthinkable happens, but in Spider's mind everything must be taken at face value, and nothing is certain. Davis Cronenberg creates a unique, uninviting atmosphere of British Gothic. where bathwater runs brown with rust, smoke from a nearby factory billows into the sky, and something strange is buried in the garden -- or is it?
The acting is exceptional, especially from Ralph Fiennes, who portrays a schizophrenic mind so delicately. This is the movie that made me like him. He's good at anything he does, but Voldemort's Voldemort, you know? The other Potter-less Ralph Fiennes movie I recommend is The Constant Gardener. He handles both dramatic roles with dignity and grace. Spider is the kind of movie, that's twist lingers right under your nose, but you don't guess it, anyway, til the end. Then it seems obvious.
I would compare it to films such as Memento, The Butcher Boy, and The Living and the Dead. It is not a mega budget concept movie like Inception, but should be watched for its tremendous acting and psychological undercurrent.