Direction: Wazzi Nour | Scenario: Rowan Joffé | Cast: Famke Janssen (Katherine), Rose Williams (Lina), Finn Cole (Jamie), Alex Hassell (Robert), Anna Friel (Nicky), and others | Playing time: 96 minutes | Year: 2023
One of the medical conditions with an immense horror scenario is the so-called locked-in syndrome. A patient is fully conscious, but is almost literally locked in his body because no motor functions are possible. Perhaps the best-known example was that of Jean-Dominque Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle. In his autobiography, Bauby described how he wrote a book just by blinking his eyes. It led to the excellent film adaptation The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Bauby’s life story was mainly about the dramatic aspects, but the aptly titled one Locked In by Nour Wazzi, a thriller element has been added. This time, Famke Janssen’s national pride is ruined. She plays actress and former Hollywood star Katherine Carter who ends up in a coma in the emergency room after a horrific car accident. At first, Katherine can’t even move an eyelid, which is essential as she has important information.
Locked In, which relegates Janssen to supporting role, mainly revolves around the story of Katherine’s stepdaughter-in-law Lina. This dual capacity is still understandable, but the relationships that emerge during the rest of the hour and a half playing time are more difficult to understand. Lina was taken in by Katherine as a child after her mother died. She falls in love with Katherine’s stepson Jamie, his father’s only heir, who suffers from severe epileptic seizures. To make matters even more complicated, a messy love triangle unfolds with doctor Robert.
All of this is now confessed by Lina to Katherine’s nurse and ultimately we arrive at the how, what and why of Katherine’s collision. The artificial structure of a frame story with flashbacks, in which the information that has been available to Lina for a long time, but is listened to by the nurse, does not turn out particularly happily. It is the form that has prevailed over the content. It also gives the impression that things have to be made more interesting by juggling the chronology.
Wazzi’s hazy psychological thriller, her feature debut, is mainly set in and around a gigantic British mansion. In addition to the plot, it is also thematically a confusing exercise, in which issues of ego, the desire for recognition and love fight for attention, without really being thoroughly explored. The place is populated by unpredictable characters who often say one thing and do another. They are also inconsistent in their actions and always seem to have a secret agenda. This gives Wazzi’s thriller a high degree of irritation and a lack of realism.
The director only really pushes through with her silliness at the denouement by piling plot twist upon plot twist. Disappointingly little is accomplished with the idea of a paralyzed character at the center of all the intrigues and plots. Locked In is largely based on atmosphere. The house is constantly in a rain shower and has hardly any daylight. It is full of rooms, corridors and outbuildings but is just as cold as the three main characters.
Locked In can be seen on Netflix.
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