“Malady” is a dark & moody film, slow to build, and very light on the dialogue, but luckily there’s plenty of sex to stave off any depression. It’s on the verge of being an art film, as the nearly 1hr-40min. running time has only about 15 minutes of story within, and even adding to that the 20 minutes of sex, the audience is still left with over an hour of the director/cinematographer basically getting off on his own shot compositions. Granted, the camerawork is often stunning, but there’s just too much “hang time” between any pivotal moments that I found it easy to fall out of the film completely and start to check on things like my laundry, the dishes, and if the pets were fed. If not for the repeated impromptu sex, I may have never finished this film at all.
The story itself is intriguing at first, although more in the way of “why would she even…” than, “ooh, what is this about and where is it going.” The story opens with an attractive girl who is heartbroken at the death of her mother. When she goes out for a meal, she sees a random guy who has all the warning signs of a natural creep: vacant eyes, unkempt beard, and he is a scab-picker. So, against the whim of any intelligent woman, she tracks him down, they have a staring contest, and she decides to go back to his flat with him, no words spoken. Then they fuck – and they fuck a lot in this film. But where Holly should have written this experience off as a one-night stand, her Catholic guilt (or Protestant guilt, or whichever other guilt comes from wearing a cross around your neck) seems to persuade her to stay with Matthew, likely with the idea that she can help him in some way, any way.
While Matthew continues to say nothing at all, refusing to discuss anything whatsoever, Holly continues to hang out and just keep fucking this weirdo who isn’t even a musician, or artist, or writer. He’s just a full-on creep who picks his scabs (and occasionally eats them). Holly has apparently never heard of serial killers.
Not that our main man is a serial killer, he’s not, it’s not that kind of movie exactly (though the soundtrack would have you believe otherwise). But the warning signs are all there, and when his mom turns out to be sick & dying, Holly forces Matthew to travel and see her. The mom cares not for her son, and even less for the girlfriend. There is such a distance between the mom and son, that Holly ends up taking care of Mom while Matthew ignores them both. Awkward is an understatement at this point in the story.
The music was intense throughout, moody and well calculated, but it never quite felt right for the movie. Long intense build-ups that you experience often in suspense thrillers, except in “Malady” there was no thrill outside of the sex scenes. Thankfully there were plenty of these. The sex felt real, not Hollywood sex, but good old-fashioned European sex. It was a brave choice on all the actors that partook, as there was real intensity and very raw moments. Roxy Bugler is phenomenally beautiful, and the best moments of the film were some of her solo figure shots, very dramatically done. The director fully succeeds in telling a story with the female form rather than just showing tits & ass under good lighting.
The characters weren’t engaging to me at all. I have no empathy for Matthew, a sullen creep who gives no clues as to why he is the way he is, until the very end of the film, which to me is a long way to wait to find out why I should care about the main character. Holly left me wanting more for her, mostly wanting for her to wise up & get out. With no real backstory on her, it’s hard to fathom why she became so engaged with Matthew, but it does make sense as to why she is so persistent on healing the unspoken wound between him and his mother.
The end was a bit shocking, but not really a surprise. Upon initial viewing, I was disgusted and thought of Matthew as even more the creep and had less reason to care about him. Looking back, I am left feeling that this was Matthew getting revenge or redemption on the previously untold cause of he and his mother’s rift.
As I mentioned before, a lot was left unsaid, and I may have been able to pick up more upon another viewing, but the problem is the director was so in love with his own cinematography, that he held onto unnecessary shots for way too long and repeated subtle giveaways so many times, they became blatant and borderline annoying. This film was artfully shot, well-performed, but easily 20 minutes too long.