In the world of films, especially genre films, the line that separates "clever" from "confusing" is very thin. Many over-ambitious filmmakers often forget that and cross that line. This happened to Welsh director Marc Evans with his 2004 psychological thriller TRAUMA.
The plot begins with Ben (played by Colin Firth), aspiring London artist, waking up from coma only to learn that he survived a car crash. His beloved wife Elisa (played by Naomie Harris) wasn't so lucky. Devastated by grief and sense of guilt, Ben tries to piece his life back together by moving into new apartment, situated in former hospital building. Just as Ben is devastated with the death of Elisa, the rest of the nation mourns the brutally murdered pop singer Lauren Paris (played by Alison David). Ben is additional aware of the fact, when it turns out that Detective Constable Jackson (played by Kenneth Cranham) considers him to be the prime suspect. But that's only the part of Ben's troubles - he begins suffering from visions and hallucinations and starts believing that Elisa might not be dead. The only person who shows some sort of understanding for him is beautiful neighbour Charlotte (played by Mena Suvari).
Richard Smith's script for TRAUMA provides another example of contemporary psychological thriller where the main issue is protagonist's faltering perception of reality. The issue is usually resolved in some sort of "clever" plot twist which reveals some important characters or plot elements to be nothing other elements of protagonist's imagination. In other to make the film interesting until the very end, Smith tries to throw as much red herrings as possible. Evans also contributes to his effort with use of any "clever" cinema trick possible, trying to make the world of TRAUMA as confusing to the viewer as for the audience. He tries too much and by when the answer is given, it is unsatisfactory - the audience will have to be very patient and very concentrated to comprehend the plot. And that patience is something that the audience will have in short supply, due to TRAUMA looking more like an exercise in style rather than example of capable storytelling. Colin Firth looks fine in his role, and Mena Suvari is attractive in her portrayal of almost ethereal character; yet those looks can't compensate for the emptiness of their characters. Many subplots and characters are left unexplored and underused, making this film traumatic experience for anyone yearning for a quality genre film.
RATING: 2/10 (-)