The Healer Movie Review

Looking to go to bed depressed, moping, and on the verge of suicidal? Look no farther than The Healer, a pedigreed movie with such a dark core than it's no mystery it never merited a theatrical release of any consequence. (The original title, Julie Walking Home, couldn't have helped either.)

Canadian Julie (Miranda Otto) returns home from a trip with her two twin children, only to find husband Henry (William Fichtner) in bed with another woman. Like that, her marriage is ruined. Days later, she discovers her son (Ryan Smith) has cancer. Soon after that, we learn he's allergic to the chemotherapy. Julie just can't catch a break. Julie hears about a faith healer in Poland and decides to take her son there to get some healin'. (Why Poland? Could have something to do with writer/director Agnieszka Holland (Oscar nominated for Europa Europa in 1992), who hails from the country.)

Once in Poland, Julie develops a fondness for Alexei the healer (a questionably charismatic Lothair Bluteau), who heals people for free in improptu sideshow appearances. How likely is that? Well, about as likely as the rest of the story, which has Alexei returning to Canada with Julie for the final act of the film.

The problem with The Healer isn't just that it's absurd, but that it doesn't contain a grain of happiness or, really, anything uplifting at all. The film ends with nothing resolved and little hope for the characters. We have nothing to do but try to expunge the memory of the film from our mind.

Fortunately, Otto is a lovely and talented actress (recalling a more accessible Cate Blanchett), and her charisma keeps the film going for long stretches at a time. Time, incidentally, passes in slow motion in The Healer -- it's 30 minutes before Julie gets the cancer diagnosis for her child. Holland is content to let this story play out at its own pace, and that's fair enough, but her lazy storytelling doesn't engender sympathy for Julie's plight nor interest in the title character. In fact, once we meet the healer, he comes off as a bit of a nitwit.

I've seen worse dramas (Anywhere But Here springs to mind), but The Healer is a tragic (in both senses of the word) missed opportunity.


Comments

The Healer Rating

" OK "

Rating: NR, 2002

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