Stephen King is a master at manipulating human nature, challenging it, putting a character on the edge of a cliff and create an unbridled suspense. By doing that, he helps the characters he creates to become stronger, self-efficient, confident and brave enough to fight with the most prominent enemy – themselves. But before they get enough strength to get up, stand tall and be proud of themselves, they aren’t aware of the fact that the damage fate has brought to them is, unfortunately, permanent and irreversible.
In most cases, the Master of Horror writes the screenplay for films that’s based on his novels, while this one, “Gerald’s Game” strangely, was trusted to Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan, who, in the meantime, managed the directorial responsibilities as well. First, I was a bit unsure whether if the two can manage to nail the script or deliver the mood that was in the book, but thanks to Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood’s terrific performances and remarkably written screenplay, this piece won’t let you rest or relaxed throughout the film as you, same as Gugino’s Jessie, will feel trapped with the claustrophobic effect in the only way possible – being thoroughly envisioned by Stephen King.
The concept of the film is quite simple; Jessie and Gerald Burlingame have crossed the dangerous line of their marriage where everything comes to one point – all or nothing. As they fight to keep the little flame alive in their relationship, the two travel to their remote lake hoping to spice up the things between them, but end up facing unforeseen circumstances – during their sexual games in the bed that lead to a little argument, Gerald gets a heart attack and dies right in front of her, leaving her alone, handcuffed to their bed frame.
The whole problem is that Gerald made sure no one disturbs them during the weekend so that they could spend some time together. However, as you can imagine, not everything worked quite the way the man planned, since his heart lost its heartbeat. Despite that unfortunate event happening in the beginning of the film, Jessie, lying on the bed helplessly, alone, dehydrated and the phone that is unreachable, she will have enough time to fight her demons in the face of her husband Gerald who suddenly reappears to keep her awake. Awake from, as you might rightly guess, not falling asleep or to be able to fight a stray dog that is willing to eat her up at the first given opportunity.
But that’s not the only thing the woman will have to struggle with – her past, traumatic childhood, all the memories she tried to escape or leave behind will hit her like a tsunami, not knowing that the same monsters that accompanied her entire life are the only keys for her to free herself from being handcuffed. Is she lucky enough to survive? With Stephen King you never know what will happen next, not about the characters or he himself, as it’s all just a part of the big game or rather Gerald’s game we all must participate in, asking no questions at all.
“Gerald’s Game” is an interesting character study that dives into the human mind, swimming through the debris of a broken life that hides inside of Jessie’s mind. Despite Gerald dying in the beginning, he gets enough chance to reveal himself to his wife who, apparently, knew very little about him. And as for the performance of Carla Gugino, you will have plenty of opportunities to realize how great an actress she is the way she was able to portray such a deep and troubled character such as Jessie in a subtle way.
In conclusion, “Gerald’s Game” may not be King’s second “Misery” but close enough to have Jessie compared with both Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes at the same time. The film itself is made with class and respects the original book where the main characters are in pain, creeped out and isolated, the way no other adaptation would have ever been able to achieve.