STONEHEARST ASYLUM (released in late 2014), directed by Brad Anderson, is a well-done Gothic suspense drama, taking place within an insane asylum in late 1899 and into the start of 1900. I finally learned what the obsolete term “alienist” means while watching this fun film. Young doctor Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) comes to Stonehearst Asylum in the English countryside to train as an alienist (a physician who attends to patients in an asylum). He discovers a disturbing shakeup of the staff there. Much intrigue ensues.
The cast (which includes Kate Beckinsale, Michael Caine, and Ben Kingsley) is excellent, the setting wonderfully macabre, and the cinematography darkly beautiful. The talented acting effectively carries the melodramatic script. I appreciate how the storyline includes a mix of old barbaric treatment methods being eclipsed by more humane effective ones and how the concept of insanity is presented as relative and often even subjective. This film is solid entertainment as both old fashioned-style, reliable suspense and romance and as a modern screenplay about human psyches and overcoming long-held misunderstandings of them.