Veronika Decides to Die (2009) Directed by Emily Young. With Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jonathan Tucker, David Thewlis and Melissa Leo.
On paper, Emily Young’s film about a woman who decides she’s fed up of her life and tries to kill herself, isn’t an easy sell. Adapted for the screen from a book by Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die stars Sarah Michelle Gellar in the title role of a woman who seemingly has it all, yet is depressed to the point of wanting to end it all. You’re not in Sunnydale anymore, Buffy fans.
The introduction is a very strong one, in which Veronika details the extent of her unhappiness in narration form, over powerful images of her lining up and swallowing a cocktail of suicide pills to the soundtrack of Radiohead’s ‘Everything in its Right Place‘. What then happens, is that she awakens in a psychiatric hospital to the welcome of Dr Blake (David Thewlis), a clinician with very unorthodox methods of treatment.
Although best known for her role on TV as Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar proves that she is an actress with more to offer outside of the cult TV circuit, although given the subject matter, it’s hard to imagine this is a film that will be widely seen. That said, it deserves to find corners of appreciation for its well-meaning approach.
The problem is, once you figure out what’s going on (I did quite early on), there begins a huge lull period, during which you might find yourself clock-watching. Little in-between what happens from around 30mins onwards comes as much of a surprise, flattening out the experience to one that feels like going through the motions.
The overall tone of the piece is a very sedate one, with calm, measured performances accompanied by a restrained musical score and gentle, unfussy direction. I might be able to speak more highly of that, had the overall film engaged me more. Once you arrive at the destination of the signposted final act, you’ll realise you got there long before the film did. 2.5/5