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27th Jun 07
Calista Flockhart – still best known for TV series Ally McBeal - plays Amy Nicholls, a new night shift nurse at the soon-to-be closed Mercy Falls Children’s Hospital. As she gets to know the children in her care, Amy begins to twig that the ‘Mechanical Girl’ they all talk about in such panicked tones may not just be a figment of their collective imaginations.
With elevators playing up, children’s bones breaking for no apparent reason and the hospital help being thrown out of a window for messing with lettered bricks, Amy discovers there is a ghost that will do its utmost to prevent the youngsters from leaving the building.
After the muddled mess that was writer / director Jaume Balagueró’s Darkness, hopes were not high for his latest - especially when duck-lips herself, Calista Flockhart has been cast in the lead slot. It soon becomes apparent that Fragile, the director’s third movie, isn’t going to be edited within an inch of its life as the heavily truncated Darkness was and that, wait for it, Flockhart isn’t going to be a problem to watch. In fact she anchors the movie reasonably well and even makes her character’s troubled back history feel fresh rather than well-trodden as she spurts it out at during an emotional moment.
Good ghost stories are a bit of a rarity. Arguably the last decent one was the Nicole Kidman feature The Others that kind of rifted on the same old Carnival of Souls / The Sixth Sense twist but did so very effectively. The movie evoked chills and thrills through effective sound and a well-paced script. Whilst Balagueró’s Fragile isn’t quite sitting in the same league as The Others, it does offer a reasonably entertaining 97 minutes, again using sound to build up the chills, if kind of lacking in the script department.
Having a ghost that breaks the bones of young hospitalised children is a unique idea and will have you will squirming when the fractures happen. Fortunately there is more to Fragile than snapped bones - for a start there is a terrific build-up and a very atmospheric first half.
Cinematographer Xavi Giménez’s camerawork assists with creating the creepy vibe and is allowed to breathe rather than be butchered by cruel editing as per Darkness, and another plus is the big ballsy score. The choice of building for the run-down hospital is a not very run-down gothic monster of a place that is almost a character in itself. Indeed the look and feel of the movie are terrific but are they enough to compensate for the lack of decent characterisation (Richard Roxburgh is completely wasted) and a finale that feels flat given the build-up? The answer is a surprising yes.
The movie’s second half sees nurse Amy venture onto the forbidden second floor where Charlotte ‘the mechanical girl’ lurks and discovers what an ugly looking thing she is too - no wonder the kids were so frigging afraid, it wasn’t just having their bones busted that got them bricking it.
With ghostly visions rising under a blanket, a mother / daughter relationship that cribs a little from Dark Water and an ending you can see coming a mile off, Fragile is hardly challenging or overly surprising but it is a fun watch and will make for an adequate rental if ghost stories are your bag.
BONUS MATERIAL – A six minute making off that tells you why Calista Flockhart was cast and what she’s like to work with, interspersed with clips to whet the appetite for a film you have already bought / rented – in a word pointless.
Fragile is released in the UK on July 2nd, and you can order a copy of the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.
Versions Violence, gore, and language has been edited out of the US release to obtain a PG-13 rating.
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.