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MIFF Film Review: Patrick

Monday 29 July 2013

MIFF Film Review: Patrick

Patrick, the remake of the 1978 cult classic has been touted as one of the top films of 2013. The world premiere screened Saturday night at the Melbourne International Film Festival and the film is director Mark Hartley’s feature debut, with a cast including Rachel Griffiths, Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) and Sharni Vinson (You’re Next).

Kathy (Vinson) is the new nurse at Dr. Roget’s remotely located, private psychiatric clinic. Having recently broken up with her boyfriend, she is assigned to assist Dr. Roget (Dance) in caring for the patient in room fifteen – Patrick (Jackson Gallagher). Whilst befriending fellow co-worker Nurse Williams and avoiding Matron Cassidy (Griffiths), Kathy begins to question Dr. Roget’s treatment of Patrick after witnessing a series of psychiatric experiments. Patrick reaches out to Kathy and as the communication between them grows, a series of strange and terrifying events occur as Patrick’s affection for Kathy becomes a fatal, bloody obsession.

The film is gripping from the opening sequence, giving a nod to the spectacle of old-school cult films with the suspenseful, melodramatic soundtrack that both acts outside and within the scenes. The tension ramps up quickly in the first few minutes and keeps you there for the entirety of the film releasing its grip momentarily, and only long enough for you to catch your breath before diving back in.

Hartley has effectively brought Patrick into the twenty-first century, swapping typewriters for computers and mobile phones. Staying true to the original whilst adapting the film to contemporary audiences, Hartely has made it his own. The sweeping aerial shots give a sense that the audience is in the psychiatrist’s chair, inspecting and observing the characters through the strange events that play out. The cinematography wonderfully creates the eerie mood that provides the sinister undertone throughout, exposing short flashes of the empty convent between major scenes in a noticeably offbeat style, maintaining the film’s cult status.

Charles Dance gives a great performance as Dr. Roget, combining fierce intellect, commanding presence and charm, with hints of darkness that gradually drive his character to lunacy. Griffiths also masterfully plays the role of bitter, distrustful Matron, pulling out all the stops at the electrifying finish. The casting is effective, especially regarding the character ‘Patrick’, who has a beautiful yet terrifying presence, whilst Nurse Williams and her dark humour provide lighthearted moments to break up the sinister events.

The main bulk of the story appears to be told in very short scenes, which jump around in a disjointed fashion. This vignette style may have been intentional by Hartley and whilst it doesn’t detract from the main plot, it has an unusual and fragmented effect on the flow of the film.

Overall it’s a great remake of classic cult cinema, which sees it maintain status within its genre (Quentin Tarantino used - from the original - Patrick’s quirk of involuntary spitting in Kill Bill). An incredible part of the process of remaking Patrick was the use of crewmembers from the original film, and that Patrick is Harvey’s feature debut as the original Patrick was for Everett de Roche in 1978.

The gothic location, cinematography, colouring, lighting and overall design gives the film a very un-Australian atmosphere which will connect with audiences around the globe. This different representation of Australian cinema will no doubt make overseas markets sit up and take notice of our latest exports. 

See it Friday 2nd August 6:30pm at Greater Union Cinema 6 & Friday 9th August 9pm at Hoyts Cinema 6.


- Chelsea Denny