Veronika Decides to Die (2009)

Veronika Decides to Die is Emily Young‘s adaptation of Paulo Coelho‘s book, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jonathan Tucker*, Erika Christensen**, David Thewlis and Melissa Leo.

Veronika (Sarah Michelle Gellar) seemingly has it all: good job, nice apartment, she’s pretty and bright. Nevertheless, she decides to kill herself and swallows pills. But she fails and comes to in a mental hospital where she gets the news that her suicide attempt has damaged her heart so much that she could drop dead any day now. Veronika, at first just trying to kill herself faster than her heart can, slowly connects with the other patients, especially with Edward (Jonathan Tucker).

The movie has many faults and the gravest is being based on a Coelho novel. Though they do clean the mess up a little bit, it’s not enough. And so the film, despite the good performances, remains dull, preachy and way too long.

I read the book about 10 years ago and at the time was really impressed with it. Since I learned my lesson about Coelho books, though, I did not re-read it, but I refreshed my memory with the help of wikipedia. And oh boy, the wikipedia article alone was enough to make me not like the book anymore anyway.

The film does make it better: They leave out Edward’s religious fervor (thank you) and they make the whole heart thing ethically a little better by [SPOILER for the book and the movie] not having them causing it and outright lie to Veronika about her situation, but by just not telling her that they cured her [/SPOILER] though they make it medically worse for the same reason. Seriously, when I say WTF to a medical explanation, it’s very wrong.

What they did retain though, was the sanctimonity of the book (unfortunately), which makes it hard to emphasise with Veronika. Even though Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a wonderful performance. The cast is generally very good, though all of them struggle with the script.

What annoyed me most though, was the feeling that nobody involved in this film had ever been to a psychiatric clinic at all. [Patients wandering the hallways and gardens alone in the dark and playing the piano in the middle of the night? Not going to happen. No matter how high class. ]
Well, that and the dream sequences in white.

Summarising: As deadra so succinctly put it when we left the theatre: “How can a movie about the brevity of life be so long?”

*Probably because they couldn’t get Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
**And Julia Stiles wasn’t available either.


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