The Cured

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Cured
"This ambitious feature debut is packed with interesting ideas."

There's a staple moment in many zombie films when a loved one is bitten and we have to face up to irremediable loss. Sometimes that person gets a last heroic moment, sometimes they choose suicide, and sometimes, as in Shaun Of The Dead, they get kept in the shed as a sort of pet, but one thing is clear - there's no way back to the way things used to be.

What if there were? What if a zombie-type disease could be cured? We might long to see those lost loved ones tracked down, treated and brought home, but what would that really mean? It's not easy to accept someone with a history of violence back into the community. It's not easy to be back in the community, and live a normal life, if one remembers all of the horrific things that one has done.

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This is the premise of David Freyne's The Cured, which follows the domestic and political dramas ensuing from the return of a group of former zombies to Irish society. They're not the first wave to be reintegrated, but resentment abounds, from familial rejection to mobs threatening to burn down the hostels where those with nowhere else to go are kept under watchful guard. Senan (Sam Keeley) is lucky to be taken in by his brother's widow Abbie (Ellen Page, playing against type but capable as always), an outsider who is stranded because the US has closed its borders. She has an infant son, Cillian (Oscar Nolan, a real find) who asks, innocently, if Senan is going to get ill again. No, he's not. He's immune now. But 25% of people have not yet been able to be cured, and their fate hangs in the balance.

That's not to say that Senan is altogether a well man. It might not be possible to come out of something like that entirely sane. When he's befriended - almost mentored - by older survivor Connor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Abbie hopes that it will help him to cope better. But what she doesn't know is that there's a pre-existing relationship between Senan and Connor. Complicated by class hierarchy, sexual tension and a weight of shared guilt, it threatens to derail Senan's recovery. Connor, meanwhile, has placed himself at the centre of a cured people's rights campaign that is becoming increasingly cult-like, and is contemplating dangerous tactics.

This is a lot to work through in 95 minutes and Freyne doesn't altogether succeed. Not enough time is devoted to Connor's rise to power to make it convincing and Abbie doesn't have much room to develop as a character beyond her relationships to the male characters, so that key revelations don't have quite the impact they deserve. That said, this ambitious feature debut is packed with interesting ideas, and they don't need to be fresh to have value. It's particularly strong in its musings on culpability, what it means to have reduced rather than absent self-control, and how what we do in the absence of healthy inhibitions might reflect who we are the rest of the time.

Visually murky, the film makes good use of small familiar spaces, from living rooms to hospital consulting rooms and alleyways, effectively imposing its disturbing scenario onto the landscapes of everyday Irish life. Moving through them, we become alert to their potential for urban warfare, and to the emotional impact of living with danger so close to home. This gives Freyne room to paint his characters in shades of grey. We understand the desire of some healthy people to kill everyone who was ever infected and get revenge for their dead, or just get it over with. We also understand the feelings of the cured, and how the situation of those yet to be cured might look different to them.

Though it doesn't quite achieve its potential, The Cured is troubling as any exploration of such subjects should be. It is also timely and humane.

Reviewed on: 05 May 2018
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After a zombie disease has been cured, former sufferers face discrimination in society.
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