It’s frightening what the mind is capable of. The human brain has the ability to alter reality based on how we interpret the world around us, but it can also be manipulated by outside forces into seeing things a certain way as well. So, when faced with extraordinary circumstances, can we ever really trust what’s around us? Fractured is a devastating portrayal of what happens when reality and imagination become indiscernible…
…Directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist) and written by Alan B. McElroy (Halloween 4), Fractured follows Ray (Sam Worthington), a man with a dark past and a failing second marriage with his wife, Joanne (Lily Rabe). After Ray and his unbelievably adorable daughter, Peri (Lucy Capri) accidentally fall into a pit at a construction site, Peri is rushed to the hospital. There, they meet Dr. Berthram (Stephen Tobolowsky), who is worried that Peri may have head trauma, and sends her down to the hospital’s basement lab for an MRI with Joanne. While waiting, Ray passes out and wakes up hours later, only to discover that the hospital has no record of Peri, and claims she and Joanne were never there at all.
Hospitals have lost my x-rays before, but a whole family? Yeesh.
Fractured sets the audience up for a tense ride from the very beginning, opening on Ray and Joanne screaming at each other in the car while Peri pulls the classic move of ignoring her parents with headphones, with Joanne going so far as to say that their family is broken. Worthington’s very human, grief-stricken response is enough for anyone who has ever desperately clutched to a relationship to empathize with.
Frustrated, the trio stop at a gas station, where Peri is confronted by a ravenous dog, which Ray scares off by throwing a rock, shocking Peri and sending her falling into a pit. Ray tries grabbing after her and plummets himself. Following the unintentionally goofy fall, they end up at a nearby hospital, where every little detail feels off. And it isn’t just the hospital food or the overly drab whites and grays which light the place and give off that “too-clean” sterile vibe that makes weirdos like me uncomfortable.
Fractured is this year’s Unsane in the way it presents a Nosocomephobic (fear of hospitals) viewpoint. If you have a fear of hospitals, Fractured takes that fear and squeezes every last drop of sweat out of it. The receptionist handling Ray’s family is as cold as they come, attempting to force a distraught Ray into marking Peri down as an organ donor despite he and Joanne’s refusal. I shuddered when its revealed that the hospital doesn’t take Ray’s insurance, and he offers up cash instead. That means no outside record of Peri’s stay, which is bad news for Ray and his family. The focus on orderlies passing by with carts full of donor organs don't exactly ease the paranoia either.
Once Joanne and Peri are taken to the basement (an area which conveniently only allows one parent to follow), the pulse-pounding terror of Fractured ramps up, as Ray awakens to discover that not only has his family not returned hours later, but the hospital now claims they have no record of them. Many of us experience a small tinge of worry when people we care about don’t text or call back right away, so it’s no wonder Ray finds a couple of cops and goes on a tirade with them through the hospital, demanding to speak with witness after witness, all of whom claim no knowledge of his family. Accompanied by a simple though unsettling score by Anton Sanko, we watch as Ray rampages from scene to scene, gradually losing his mind and in turn dragging the audience to the edge of their seats as he searches for answers.
Hospitals are supposed to be places that we can trust, yet in Fractured, Worthington does such a brilliant job of pulling us to his side with his frantic display of fear and paranoia. We believe him, even as a variety of staffers point out that Ray has a head injury, and isn’t thinking straight. Anderson perfectly paints the hospital staff as untrustworthy through subtle looks of knowing, and angry reactions to each new piece of evidence which Ray presents to the cops. Tobolowsky is particularly unsettling in these moments.
Fractured is a boiling pot of tension that bubbles louder and louder as we begin to wonder, is Ray mistaken, or is there truly a sinister conspiracy being conducted by the staff to hide what really happened to Ray’s family?
As a viewer, oddly enough, the only people we can truly trust in this riveting story are the cops, who refreshingly believe Ray instead of immediately assuming he’s crazy, at least at first, and are doing everything they can to help him. The question of whether or not the audience should be on Ray’s side is what makes Fractured a captivating, twisty thriller that verges towards driving the viewer mad. Just when you think you know where the story is going, the narrative flips, again and again, leaving us as much in the dark as Ray. Anderson’s film is a disturbing study of the mind and the way in which it can be manipulated, both internally and externally, all of it leading to a shocking ending that sent chills down my spine.
Fractured doesn’t do anything differently than other films like it and can start to feel just a touch repetitive, but what it does do, it does well. Thanks to some tense direction and a phenomenal performance from Worthington, fans of psychological thrillers will enjoy devouring this nerve-wracking treat
Lose your mind with Fractured on Netflix now.
By Matt Konopka