After hearing conflicting opinions on the new Netflix original, Gerald’s Game, I finally sat down to watch it. The reviews I heard were anywhere from "It was boring and I didn’t enjoy it" all the way up to "I had to run to the bathroom to vomit." Obviously, I knew I wouldn’t be the latter, but I hoped not to be the former either. I’m a Stephen King fan, so for another one of his books to make it to the screen pleases me.
As it was one of his earlier novels it focused on the corruption of children, and while it may not seem that way at first glance, there’s always more underneath. The opening is harmless enough, and without prior knowledge, I honestly might have mistaken it for a romantic comedy. A couple packing for a vacation it seems, only the foreboding is in the two sets of heavy-duty handcuffs stashed away in his suitcase.
The car ride – to a very lovely vacation home – is probably a little heavy, and you can tell right off the bat he wants sex, and she’s not that into it. I got jump-scared when they almost hit a dog. Gerald and Jessie argue – lightheartedly – about the dog, and it seems that’s the end of it. Goodbye pooch!
Jessie feeds the dog later – sending them into another argument because the steak is apparently worth 200 dollars a cut. When they return to the house, neither bother to close their front door. Strange. But the door is quickly forgotten when Jessie is cuffed to the bed in a brand-new slip. Her husband seems to get it up for two things. Viagra, and a weird rape fantasy. Jessie doesn’t want to partake anymore, and just when she thinks she’ll get out of it, Gerald has a heart attack, and promptly dies on her. Literally.
Welcome back for his encore, the dog. After pushing her husband off the bed, he bleeds out onto the floor, and the dog – who wandered in the very inviting wide open front door – licks it up and then tears a chunk out of Gerald’s arm.
This action is the tipping point of the film. It sends Jessie into a mental breakdown, and soon she is having full bodied conversations with her psyche. Embodied both into her dead husband – who is surprisingly still an asshole – and into herself – who is very good at giving pep talks.
This film boils down to one thing – a relationship with extremely poor communication skills. With a wife who has been emotionally traumatised in her youth and is burying the secret, she is unable to desire a career, children or any other form of ongoing relationships. The husband, who has had a long string of affairs, and hid the Viagra for six months. The worst being Jessie knows his secrets and doesn’t do or even say anything about it.
Still chained to the bed, her husband slowly being eaten by a stray dog, her inner voices must rally together to make Jessie understand she can get out – but it isn’t going to be pretty, and she must face her fears head-on.
I thoroughly enjoyed the play to the baser instincts of human nature; sex, fear, and survival. The dog isn’t her only predator. Another figure – who frightens the dog away at night – stands watch over her. He is called the “moonlight man.” Something she attributes to her imagination, he ends up being the most real monster of them all.
Finally, after her escape, she’s forced to adjust to busy days and sleepless nights rebuilding her life, while being visited by her moonlight man – although to be fair she did give him a wedding ring. I should give props to a woman who uses her trauma, and builds other people up because of it, which is exactly what Jessie does.
There’s a lot of symbolism as well, and I’m a sucker for it. The eclipse is the symbol of her innocence being taken, but also in a more literal sense, it’s her sunshine – or happiness – being blocked out. At the end she meets with her younger self, declaring it’s time for the sunshine to come out again. And I think that’s something we all need from time to time.
Overall, I’d rate it a 5/5. It’s probably not a movie I will watch again, but I will probably think about it a lot. I will officially be referring to an autopsy as “inventory of your guts” for the rest of my life now.