“People who are supposed to protect you from monsters, turn out to be monsters themselves”. ‘Gerald’s Game’ is another glittering entry into Mike Flanagan’s illustrious filmography. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, ‘Gerald’s Game’ revolves around a romantic get-away gone wrong and a captive woman’s attempts to evade “Death”. King’s novels have seen numerous adaptations on screen. The prosaic beauty of his text lies in his often understated, intense character-studies offering deep insights into the human mind. It is not often, then, that a Stephen King adaptation outperforms a Stephen King novel. Flanagan achieves this rare feat in a triumphant effort with the amazing Carla Gugino as the centrepiece of this taut psychological thriller.
The pair, fresh off their success with ‘The Haunting of Hill House, successfully weaves an overwhelming tale of secrets from the past and the confrontation with them in the present. Flanagan’s craftsmanship elevates ‘Gerald’s Game’ and makes it more than a mere captivity thriller. The film is able to recreate the essence of the literary work, doing justice to King’s penchant for using monsters to solve real-life crisis (if you get it). The film’s minimalistic setting proves to be no hindrance for Flanagan’s vision and brilliance. It instead acts as a narrative tool for him to bind the story in a claustrophobic maelstrom of suppressed feelings, past ghosts, and real-life horror. This analysis dissects the film and explores the meaning of recurring motifs in it and the cheerful ending that brought us to our knees.
Gerald and Jessie are a married couple, albeit unhappily. The pair has gone through a rough phase but has overcome it successfully and looks to start a new phase in their life with a romantic getaway. Gerald takes Jessie to an isolated cabin in the woods, along with props to spice up the narrative in this romantic chapter. On the way, they almost run over a dog on the road, feeding off of the corpse of a rat. When they reach the cabin, a worried Jessie offers the hungry dog some food. As Gerald takes her inside, they forget to lock the door. During Jessie’s brief visit outside, Gerald takes a viagra pill and then takes another one in front of Jessie. He cuffs her to the bed, rendering her incapable of freely moving her hands. Gerald then proceeds to act like a stranger and fulfill his weird rape fantasy using Jessie. After she rebukes his efforts to do so, Gerald has an untimely heart attack and dies on her.
The now chained Jessie fears for her life and tries desperately to get away, albeit unsuccessfully. The open door lets in the dog they encountered on the road. He is drawn to Gerald’s blood, and despite Jessie’s best efforts to keep him away, he takes a chunk out of his hand. Suddenly, Gerald wakes up, complaining about Jessie’s indecisiveness in acting to rescue him. A startled Jessie discovers the resurrected Gerald-like figure as a hallucination, which is furthered by a figure of her, trying to neutralize Gerald’s pessimistic comments. At her disposal, Jessie finds a glass of water, the price tag from her new night-slip, and suppressed feelings which quickly surface, inundating her in guilt, fear, and shame.
As the sun sets down, she sees a scary man in the room holding a trinket with jewels in it. She calms herself down and assures herself of the figure’s imaginary existence. She quickly falls asleep due to the exhaustion, and we’re taken to Jessie’s day on the lake house as a child. A fear of water keeps her from joining her family on the boat, forcing her father to stay back with her. As they watch the eclipse on the swing, her father reminisces the time she used to sit on her lap. Jessie, in a bid to see her father happy, hesitantly obliges. As she watches the eclipse, Tom, her father, starts masturbating, making Jessie uncomfortable and disgusted. Tom manipulates her into silence, drowning her in fear of the consequences to his marriage and the family’s peace if she spoke out.