Gerald’s Game (2017)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Writing Credits & Screenplay by: Mike Flanagan & screenplay Jeff Howard
Based Upon the Novel by: Stephen King
Carla Gugino – Jessie Burlingame
Carel Struycken – Moonlight Man
Bruce Greenwood – Gerald Burlingame
Henry Thomas – Tom
Chiara Aurelia – Young Jessie
Running time: 103 minutes
When a harmless game between a married couple in a remote retreat suddenly becomes a harrowing fight for survival, wife Jessie must confront long-buried demons within her own mind – and possibly lurking in the shadows of her seemingly empty house. (Written by Intrepid Pictures.)
He’s a successful lawyer – clearly a dominant man, used to having his own way. It’s very apparent that this weekend away is his idea.
She’s a housewife, with no friends and her husband is her entire life. She was visibly uncomfortable in the car – even to the touch of her husband, which is an alarm bell to the audience, however not to her. There are more alarm bells: the POV camera angles as Gerald looks down upon his handcuffed wife, as she is now unable to escape. What else does he now have planned for Jessie?
It’s during his game that things go wrong for Gerald; he suffers a fatal heart attack and Jessie is left handcuffed to the bed while Gerald withers away on the floor. His body is mauled by the rabid stray dog, but his spirit tortures Jessie’s subconscious.
“Don’t question what you don’t want the answer to” – Gerald
This was not the first time that Gerald had disrespected Jessie’s body; In the afterlife, Gerald taunted Jessie about the rape role playing she had “allowed” him to do to her body, as the dutiful housewife.
She let him handcuff her. She let him drag her to the weekend – is he playing Devil’s advocate here? Or is King?
“A life support system for a stupid fucking c****”…
…is what Gerald reminds her that all women are, in an attempt to weaken her resolve to stay alive for long enough to keep scheming with her subconscious to escape from Gerald’s game.
Unfortunately, Jessie isn’t just fighting with the demon of Gerald: she’s also fighting the demon of her father, who just like her husband, sexually and mentally abuses her. Like Gerald, her father is also a lawyer and therefore he knows how to shame a victim and to make a deal. On the day of an eclipse, he sexually abuses his daughter, then uses psychological manipulation – victim blaming for the abuse, to convince his daughter that not only is her fault, but that they must hide the truth. The low angle shot is incredibly strong and powerful – conspiratorial. The audience is in on the secret. It also gives credit to Aurelia’s incredible acting, as well as the weight of this burden that her character has to bear.
I perceive the stray dog as a metaphor for Jessie, who at the beginning of the film is lost, abandoned and although Jessie has a house with Gerald, she has no home. Animals also play a huge part in King’s books – particularly ones who eat flesh (like vultures and the dog!)
I’m struggling to see the relevance of the Moonlight Man, if only to make horror out of a disfigurement, which I disagree with. If anybody rescued Jessie, it was herself (her own subconscious). When she used the tampon as a makeshift bandage, I saw that as a flag for female empowerment – especially seeing as Gerald had restricted her from having children and convinced her throughout the entire marriage that it was her idea, therefore taking away her femininity.
“Your career always came first” which is why they never had children but he convinced her that she was never maternal.
She has a sassy subconscious
Her father objectified her. Gerald objectified her.
Her minimised her. Gerald minimised her.
Gerald’s monologue signals that this is how she always knew she was going to die. Alone. In the dark.
Sanitary towels – she was ready