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The Confusion
The Confusion

Directed by

David Fincher

Produced by

Jason Blum
David Fincher

Screenplay by

David Fincher

Story by

David Fincher
Christopher McQuarrie

Starring

Rachel Hurd-Wood
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Eddie Redmayne
Daisy Ridley
Eva Green
Essie Davis
Idris Elba
Richard E. Grant

Music by

John Williams
Atticus Ross

Cinematography

Mike Gioulakis

Distributed by

Warner Bros. Pictures (North America)
Columbia Pictures (International)

Release date(s)

4th November 2015

Running time

146 minutes

Country

United Kingdom
United States

Budget

$123 million

Box Office

$784 million

[Source]


The Confusion is a 2015 British-American psychological horror film written and directed by David Fincher and starring Rachel Hurd-Wood and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. It is a film about a teenage girl who suffers from an abnormally early case of schizophrenia that traps her in a child's mentality, and is haunted by an imaginary friend that spurs her to run away from home. It co-stars Eddie Redmayne, Daisy Ridley, Eva Green, Essie Davis, Idris Elba and Richard E. Grant. The film was shot primarily in Cornwall.

Upon release, the film was a box-office success, grossing $784.6 million on a budget of $123 million. It also went on to receive widespread critical acclaim from critics and audiences. The majority of the praise went almost singularly to Rachel Hurd-Wood's performance, as well as her chemistry with Brodie-Sangster, the film's brutality, script and narrative and John Williams's score. Fincher's inspiration for the film came after he watched Jennifer Kent's The Babadook and became determined to create a psychological film that featured the parameters of an imaginary friend who has overstayed its welcome in a young person's mind.

Rachel Hurd-Wood was the third choice to play Kimberley, and she volunteered because she felt it would be an exciting, new turn for her, and when her performance received universal acclaim she exclaimed 'This is so brilliant. I can't believe this...it's so great. Thank you, everyone. You guys are the best'. Fincher stated how he was pleased with the reception, and several cast members praised his dedication to the film's creation.

Plot

Dr. James Peterson sits at his desk late at night and starts writing a report on a girl named Kimberley Jackson.

In the past, Kimberley Jackson runs into the woods, away from home with a boy she calls Finn. She hides in a river as Dr. Peterson tries to find her and screams her name. She hides in the river for several minutes, before Finn cautions her to leave before she suffers from hypothermia. When Finn phases through trees as he follows her away from the river, it is established that he is not a real person - he is a figment of her imagination, her imaginary friend. Kimberley cries herself to sleep remembering 'the little grey room' and becoming terrified that people will bring her back to that room, but Finn coldly assures her that she will never go back there. In the night, Kimberley carves threatening messages into her arms with a pen. While she dreams, she talks in her sleep, sometimes with Finn's voice, and re-enacts a conversation between herself and someone else, with that someone else threatening to beat her into the ground. Finn watches her while she sleeps and he mutters that she is too scared for her own good. When she finally falls asleep, he fades slightly.

Peterson returns to the facility that Kim ran away from, the Hestia Institute, where they are providing a home for dangerously disturbed young people and children. He investigates Kimberley's room and finds the place had been ransacked by her in her brutal escape from the facility, and then discovers several threatening notes written jaggedly into the walls, each of them re-enacting conversations between her and other people. The police arrive, led by trainee Ivy Franklin, and she takes pictures of the messages on the wall. She asks about Kimberley and he insists that information about her can only be afforded to officers of higher classification than Ivy, who is only a trainee. Ivy speaks with several other patients, and they report Kimberley's violent, erratic and frightening behaviour. Ivy reports to her boss, Captain Serena Daniels, who determines that Kimberley is dangerous, based on her reported behaviour. Ivy views this opinion as harsh considering they haven't properly encountered her and don't know enough about her, but Daniels relents.

When Kimberley steals clothes and food from several shops, Finn encourages her to burn the clothes, out of a fascination with seeing things end. Kimberley is tempted, but she scalds herself on the fire she makes. When a woman tries to nurse the burn, she takes it as an assault and runs away. Peterson surrenders Kimberley's records to Daniels, who reads through them and becomes visibly disturbed as she does. She refuses to divulge what is contained in the records to Ivy on the basis that she has the authority to do so. Kimberley tries to treat the burn herself, unsuccessfully, and she hides in a bookshop, where as she reads Finn reads it aloud, showing how he contributes to her understanding of things. As he reads, he twists several of the plot points to be frightening and Kimberley shouts at him, attracting the attention and anger of several other people there. A librarian tries to get her to be quiet, and Kim kicks the woman into a bookcase and runs away. Finn goads her as she runs, and she is nearly hit by a car as she crosses the road. She outpaces the bookshop worker who tries to chase after her.

After hearing reports about the altercation at the bookshop, Peterson goes on a personal campaign to find her, fishing through the Institute records to find out about locations she would be known to return to. When he does, he discovers her family home near Padstow and decides to go there himself. Ivy confronts him and he confesses that he has been responsible for her psychiatric care since she arrived six years ago, and he agrees to show her recordings of the meetings that he has officially had with her - the videos depict their conversations where Kimberley portrays what appears to be a separate identity she calls 'Finn', but when he peruses too far she becomes extremely violent and attacks him (Peterson shows several scars along his collar from where she attacked him once). After one attack pulled her into a seizure when he tried to find out about her parents, she was put into solitary confinement after being deemed too dangerous to be allowed outside with the other inhabitants - the day she escaped was the very day before she would be allowed to interact with everyone else.

Kimberley and Finn contemplate what happened to her before she escaped, and Kimberley appears to believe that Peterson was one of the few people she could trust in the world, which prompts Finn to try and convince her otherwise - he points out that he has been with her since she was four years old and has nursed her through 'the kids, the nightmares, the parents...everything'. Kimberley remembers both of her parents trying insanely to convince her that she ought to drop Finn's existence since she was getting too old, but Kimberley was just too close to him to do that. In the night, under the belief that the ground beneath her feet is inflated, she tries jumping across cars, but Finn snaps her back to reality and points out that she could be imprisoned for it. Kimberley laments that she has precious little grip on the world around her and it is realised that Finn is what ties her mind to the real world. At the same time, Peterson reveals to Daniels that Kimberley suffers from an almost unnaturally early development of schizophrenia, which has manifested quicker with the existence of Finn. Daniels contemplates that the events described in her records have intensified her schizophrenia and left her entirely dependent on Finn.

Peterson is approached by his mentor, Mike Parker, who exchanges opinions with him as to what Kimberley is going through and Peterson admits that he wants to help her, but he doesn't disclose why. Parker already knows and he sympathises, and when Ivy eavesdrops on their conversation and faces Peterson about it later on, he explains that, when he was a child, his brother suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder, which led to him being savagely bullied at school and Peterson was too scared to do anything about it - one day, when one of his five personalities became psychopathic and beat a bully to death, he was arrested and died in prison a few years later. He works at the Hestia Institute in the hopes that he can prevent something like that happening to anyone else again. In the meantime, Daniels reads over Kimberley's records a second time and vents about it to her lieutenant, Summers, stating that she'd never anticipated a case like this her entire career.

Kimberley's father Dr. Kevin Jackson, who is serving a life sentence in prison at the time, hears on the news about Kimberley's escape and resolves to escape and see his daughter again, in the hopes of apologising - he does not disclose what he wants to apologise for. Kimberley experiences a catastrophic nightmare while she sleeps on the street and she storms out into the cycle path by Padstow harbour, venting hysterically about how she's been having nightmares her entire life, and that they can never truly leave her. Finn comforts her and she tearfully expresses that she doesn't know what she is scared of. To clear her head, she walks through Padstow, but is spotted by Ivy, who alerts Peterson. The two of them try to track her through a crowd, and when she recognises Peterson from the Institute she masquerades as a passer-by watching the street band that plays outside one of the cafes. However, when Finn taunts her, sarcastically asking what her plan is when she thinks they have gone, her hysterical reaction alerts both Ivy and Peterson to her location. Kimberley runs into an alley but Peterson corners her there and tries to calm her. When Kimberley anxiously screams that she doesn't want to go back to the little grey room, he assures her that they won't, but she knows he is lying and attacks him. Ivy pulls them apart and Kimberley runs, while Finn invisibly laughs at the failures of both adults in restraining her.

Encouraged by her imaginary friend's taunts to her 'enemies', Kimberley runs faster and steals a bicycle. She cycles out on to the road and Kimberley goads her into cycling dangerously fast. When a car pulls on to the road, she loses control and is thrown from the bike into a field, where she is knocked unconscious by the landing. Josephine Fisk finds her and takes her to a house by the sea, where Kimberley wakes up. Finn tries to convince her that they are in a dangerous place, but Kimberley objects, feeling safer with a roof over her head. She befriends Josephine and is alarmed by how nice she is being to her. Josephine asks her why she ran away, and Kimberley explains it's because of her parents. After having late tea with Josephine, Kimberley (Despite Finn's objections) explains what happened before her escape - Kimberley was bullied at school, and this was made worse by her drunken father. One night, when Kimberley started a fight with one such bully at school, her father lost his temper with her and beat her with a cane, leaving savage bruises on her body - her mother intervened, and he struck her in the neck so hard that he killed her. Kimberley ran from home and hid in a neighbour's house, where her father broke in and tried to restrain her, but not before that neighbour called the police.

Rethinking the events of her mother's death and her father's pursuit of her, Kimberley remarks that, after her father was sent to prison, she was sent to a care home, but there were other children there who bullied her for her exhibitions of PTSD - when they bullied her into fighting back, and she hospitalised two of them, she was approached for the first time by Dr. Peterson, whom Finn convinced her was a threat. Finn nursed her whenever she was alone, and consoled her when she was upset, and after she was sent to the Hestia Institute his presence became far more prominent. Finn became aggressive during the sessions with Dr. Peterson, and prompted her to attack him once. When she escaped the Institute, she thought that the building was on fire (Due to hallucinations brought on by her schizophrenia), and that there were monsters inside it, setting it afire. Realising what kind of person she is in the presence of, Josephine tries to contact Dr. Peterson, but she is discovered by Kimberley, who goes into a mood swing and throws the phone at the wall. She goes into a seizure under the panic of Peterson coming, and while she has the seizure and she calls out to Finn, the latter's face becomes monstrous and he takes a demonic appearance. Josephine calls Dr. Peterson, who arrives with Ivy, but Ivy receives orders that Kimberley be brought in. Defying these orders, Ivy follows Peterson's instructions that they put her in a bed in the house until she recovers.

Kimberley endures a terrifying nightmare of her father, and his face morphs between his own and Finn's, and the scene of him killing her mother repeats itself in several scenarios, one being her mother returns as a zombie and the other being her mother shows Kimberley's own face instead of her own. While she recovers, Dr. Peterson surmises that the only reason she hadn't left was because Josephine's house looked like a remote enough location that she could define it as 'safe'. He realises that Kimberley is simply trying to find a place where she feels safer than when she was at home, from how Kimberley told her story to Josephine - her first care home was insufficient because she was still bullied, and the isolation she received at the Hestia Institute was insufficient because Finn felt threatened that Kimberley was receiving external help that was actually repairing Kimberley. As Kimberley awakens, Finn claims that the place has become as dangerous as the Hestia Institute, but Kimberley shocks him by defying him openly.

Dr. Peterson finally speaks with Kimberley, and gains her trust at last, but Kimberley proves to be still uneasy around him, mostly due to Finn's goading. Kimberley, hearing the voices of her mother's cries in the distance, believes that she has returned to her old home and that she is in the kitchen with her mother and father before that fateful quarrel. Dr. Peterson tries to ease Kimberley, insisting that she will never return to the Hestia Institute and that he will, if he wishes, stay with Josephine. Kimberley, feeling safer there, agrees to this. However, Serena Daniels personally arrives to detain Kimberley for the smaller crimes she committed following her escape. Kimberley reacts violently and attacks the police officers with a kitchen knife, leaving a brutal scar on Daniels' arm. Dr. Peterson restrains her and Daniels is sorely determined to have her imprisoned for attacking her, but Kimberley anxiously claims that Finn had made her lash out. Unlike previous times, Dr. Peterson doesn't seem entirely sure if Finn influenced this - he could tell from previous experiences that, when Kimberley attacked him back at the Institute it was under Finn's influence. When Daniels aggressively pines for Kimberley's prosecution for her escape and the damage she'd done since then, Dr. Peterson thwarts her by stating that she'd had too much of a personal connection with people like Kimberley - he angrily exposes that he and her grew up together, and she lived in a care home herself alongside people with mental disorders, giving her a deep hate of such people.

With Serena removed from the case, Ivy visits Kimberley in her cell, but Kimberley has become eerily mute and there is no visible communication between her and Finn. Daniels, angry from being thwarted, visits the prison where Kimberley's father is being held, where she reveals his daughter's predicament to him. Realising what he has done to her, Dr. Jackson demands to see his daughter but she coldly refuses him, openly speculating that even his presence would madden Kimberley more than she has already become. When Dr. Jackson asks if she ever talked about him, Daniels verbally remembers hearing that Kimberley screamed his name in her sleep. Meanwhile, Ivy is going nowhere with communicating with Kimberley, but when she points out that nothing that happened to her was her own fault, Kimberley starts crying and accuses herself of assaulting Serena, but Ivy, through the guidance of Dr. Peterson and Mike Parker, assures her that it wasn't entirely unprovoked. Finn resurfaces and suddenly becomes aggressive towards Kimberley, shouting at her, provoking Kimberley to engage in a savage argument with him, disturbing Ivy. When Ivy stands between Kimberley and, unknowningly, Finn, Kimberley proves unable to lash out because she's been restrained to the table, so she tries to wrestle out of the handcuffs. Dr. Peterson rushes in and sedates her.

While locked in a room, Kimberley and Finn talk - Finn remains aggressive and his voice, and some of his physical traits, take on that of her father's. Kimberley is, at first, swayed by this, but suddenly she realises that she was afraid to speak back then because Finn wasn't there, but she rebelled against him when he did appear. Confident that she doesn't need Finn anymore if she has enough nerve to confront him, Kimberley tirades to Finn and savagely disowns him, even though Finn takes on frightening appearances and gives her recollections of her mother's death (Brought on because Finn is an element of Kimberley's mind, and that element of her mind is resisting being revoked), but Kimberley openly admits that she doesn't need, nor want him, anymore. In response to this, Finn physically fades away, and Kimberley explodes into triumphant laughter, witnessed through CCTV by Dr. Peterson, Ivy and Daniels. Kimberley becomes ecstatic that she has removed Finn from her mind and Dr. Peterson officially signs a form permitting her release back into society, where Josephine will be allowed to be her guardian for the foreseeable future.

Kimberley moves into Josephine's house and is given her daughter's old room. Dr. Peterson makes regular visits to the house to see that she is improving, and visibly she is repairing substantially from her ordeal. She takes to swimming in the sea by the ocean and Josephine confesses that it feels like they are mother and daughter. However, every night, Kimberley returns to her room and becomes sleepless, always expecting Finn to speak to her, even though she acknowledges that she banished Finn. However, Kimberley secretly becomes extremely anxious, not remotely used to being 'alone' without Finn in her head. She continues to bond with Josephine, though, and makes several friends among the locals. However, one night, she becomes hugely impacted by the fact that she feels indescribably lonely. She realises that she is to blame because she banished Finn, and she laments that she has never felt more lonely in her life. At the same time, Dr. Peterson receives a voice message from Mike Parker, who has made an observation about Kimberley's behaviour - he claims that she is undergoing a decaying mental episode, and since she's lived with Finn in her head to fourteen years he felt like a separate part of her brain that no longer exists. He warns Dr. Peterson that Kimberley could be either dangerous, self-destructive or worse.

Kimberley steals several skipping ropes and ties them into a long rope, while Josephine returns from work and realises her absence. Dr. Peterson realises what is about to happen and drives at a dangerous speed to reach Kimberley. He calls Ivy and she immediately joins him on the journey. Kimberley completes the rope, revealing it to actually be a noose. Hearing Finn's voice faintly in her head, Kimberley concludes that this is the only way she can find him again. Kimberley then puts the noose around her neck, attaches the other end to a bench fixed into the ground and, just as Josephine rushes over to find her, jumps over the edge of the cliff, hanging herself. Dr. Peterson and Ivy arrive and Dr. Peterson runs on to the beach only to fall to his knees as he sees Kimberley's dead body hanging from the cliff. Ivy starts crying and Josephine screams for Kimberley. Dr. Peterson can only stare at Kimberley, realising what she had done to herself by erasing Finn.

Back in the present, in his bedroom, while heavily drunk, Dr. Peterson completes his report about Kimberley, concluding that her situation could never be properly understood by anyone, not even herself. Based on Kimberley's ordeal, he lays down a series of precautions for children who develop schizophrenia as early as she did, and finishes the report by voicing how much he regrets not being fast enough to contemplate what he has done. As he walks away from the computer, he imagines Kimberley's corpse hanging from the ceiling in front of him and he goes to sleep watching her limp body swing in front of him - he imagines her slowly coming back to life, but when he blinks, her body is gone.

Cast

  • Rachel Hurd-Wood as Kimberley Jackson, an eighteen-year-old girl who suffers from schizophrenia, which results in the development of an imaginary friend. Unpredictable and dangerous because of this, Kim runs away from home and vies for a personal sense of stability that she has fought for her entire life.
    • Kyla Deaver as 12-year-old Kimberley
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Finn, Kimberley's imaginary friend. Finn is calm, methodical, cold and honest, and represents the complex insecurities in Kimberley. He has been a part of her since she was four years old. 
  •  Eddie Redmayne as Dr. James Peterson, an abnormal psychologist who studies Kimberley's behaviour and campaigns personally to protect her throughout the film. Redmayne described his character as 'the kind of guy who holds his hand out to you, even though you want to tear it right off'.
  • Daisy Ridley as Ivy Franklin, a trainee police officer who joins Dr. Peterson in searching for Kim and trying to protect her from the dangers that she instigates. Passionate and naive, Ivy confesses that she doesn't entirely understand her situation but is motivated by the fact that someone needs her help.
  • Eva Green as Captain Serena Daniels, Ivy's boss who is determined to bring Kimberley in before she becomes too volatile to control. She is revealed to have grown up under trauma with children like Kimberley, which gives her a complex fear of such people.
  • Essie Davis as Josephine Fisk, a woman who lives by the sea in Cornwall and takes in Kimberley after the altercation in Padstow. She is the first person that Kimberley confides about her past.
  • Idris Elba as Mike Parker, a senior psychiatrist and a confidante of James', who helps him in guidance as to how to deal with Kimberley.
  • Richard E. Grant as Dr. Kevin Jackson, Kimberley's negligent father who is given a life sentence after killing his wife in front of Kimberley, ultimately causing Kimberley's over-reliance on Finn.
  • Emily Watson as Evelyn Jackson, Kimberley's mother.
  • John Simm as the lead singer in a band that performs by Padstow bay.
  • Jackie Earl Haley as Summers, a police officer and one of Daniels' lieutenants. 

Critical Reception

The Confusion received widespread critical acclaim, with major praise going to Rachel Hurd-Wood's performance and John William's score. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 213 reviews with an average score of 9.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads "A frightening, complicated and disturbing as it is visually and thematically complex, The Confusion is an unconventional, masterfully-scripted horror story told through the eyes of a teenage girl with the mind and maturity of a toddler - and a director with the proficiency of Alfred Hitchcock". Metacritic reports a score of 92 out of 100, based on 57 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.

David Edelstein gave the film a 9 out of 10 and wrote that it was "a disturbing and mesmerisingly well-directed piece of work that benefits from a faultless cast and a complex, unsettling story, though told with an unusual premise", and he noted the ambiguous probability of children developing schizophrenia as young as Kimberley. He acknowledged that Fincher was exploring the possibilities of such a thing happening in the film. Edelstein cited that Hurd-Wood's performance as the highlight of the entire film. Matt Zoller Seitz gave the film 4 out of 4 and acclaimed Fincher's direction, calling it "his most complicated film from a dramatic perspective, which is held aloft by the four lead characters and the sheer sympathy we feel for the primary heroine". Peter Travers observed the psychology of the characters and labelled the character of Kimberley as a character that did justice to children and young people with mental illnesses. David Fincher received universal acclaim for his direction and screenplay, with Travers elaborating that "if Fincher made a single mistake in this film, then even I don't see it. Fincher worked hard for this, and it shows in the sheer effort put into his direction".

Rachel Hurd-Wood received universal acclaim from critics and audiences for her performance in the film, with many critics citing it as her best performance in a film to date. Emmanuel Levy wrote "Rachel gives off this absolute sense of vulnerability and mortality that you can't help but feel for her, and her portrayal of the erratic, temperamental Kimberley is one of the major building blocks of this entire film", and praised her scenes with Eddie Redmayne and Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Furthermore, he elaborated the difficulties in portraying certain aspects of Kimberley's character - such as the climax of the film, which he considered would have been vastly difficult for an actress so unused to darker characters. Alonso Duralde at MNSBC lauded Hurd-Wood's performance in the film, particularly acclaiming her ability to portray a confusion between fantasy and reality, and for accurately and dramatically depicting the mannerisms and extremes of schizophrenia, calling her performance "a terrifyingly moving, horribly realistic display that dominates every scene of the film she inhabits". Chris Stuckmann, on his YouTube channel, gave the film an "A" and said "Rachel Hurd-Wood is fantastic in this film. I haven't seen such a mesmerising young actress performance since Anya Taylor-Joy in The Witch - I'm not saying this cos I love horror films; she's really good in this movie".

Horror writer Stephen King acclaimed the film, singling out Fincher's direction and the script as one of the most underrated elements of the film - he wrote in a review "This film truly unsettled me! I've seldom ever seen a film that left the audience with me so speechless - bravo, Mr. Fincher, you've proven yourself again!". Many critics and asked audience members commented positively on how the director avoided creating a main character who was completely dependent on a male character, since Kimberley was completely capable of extricating Finn from her - one audience member wrote "she was a strong, complex character in a hopelessly tragic situation - it's great writing and a great character, and Rachel Hurd-Wood is endlessly watchable alongside Thomas Brodie-Sangster".

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