THR Brain on Fire Review – Another Ouch

The Hollywood Reporter

In two days, two “ouches” for a Richard Armitage character. Note- in both the Berlin Station review and this, it’s the written character that’s criticized – not the actor.

One of the weaknesses of the movie is that Rhona, Susannah’s banker father Tom (Richard Armitage) and Stephen all lack definition as characters, so they just hover uninterestingly on the sidelines as Susannah goes from screaming anxiety to unhinged euphoria while being shuffled from one doctor to the next. Perry and Slate give their characters more substance and personality, but they disappear for much of the movie.

As Susannah’s condition worsens and continues to flummox medics, the film just gets stuck in a repetitive pattern that drains rather than builds tension, a problem inherent in both the writing and editing. There should be some emotional investment in the family’s reluctance to send her to a psych hospital, as well as a flood of relief when a doctor finally identifies the problem. But the family connections are so mechanically drawn that it’s dramatically ineffectual and emotionally flat.

As an aside, I always wonder how people who haven’t seen a film can criticize the critics – but this seems to be the case here. Richard Armitage fans are willing to defend his work, and anything he’s involved with, just because Richard Armitage. I think this dilutes the impact and meaningfulness of our opinions.

To me, and as I said during the chat accompanying the press conference yesterday, they could have spent the money on raising awareness through an educational campaign for health care professionals –  those who need the awareness more than patients.

This says it all:


11 thoughts on “THR Brain on Fire Review – Another Ouch

  1. When I read the book, I wondered how to make a good movie out of it, and I guess these reviews are confirming my bias without having seen the film. I’m wondering how many of the critics bring this same bias. I suspect the film had to do something surprising to be successful. It sounds like Chloe Moretz did a good job acting this role, but that the writing of the story was a little off and the characters were not sufficiently developed. I wonder if there will be some good reviews? I wonder if there is anything they can do to fix the film at this point?

    I’m less concerned about the negative Berlin Station review until that starts to be a trend. Brain on Fire reviews seem to be mostly negative, unfortunately. But apparently Chloe’s dress for the premiere was well received.


  2. I agree it’s often difficult to approach something without fan bias but I don’t think these two blokes, YT film bloggers called We Live Entertainment, are especially RA fans. One has given it a score of 8/10 and has recommended it. However, they didn’t like it as much as they wanted to – liked but didn’t love. One of them valued the educational aspect.

    They thought Moretz’s performance was a tour de force and they mention RA several times. They really liked his performance too and thought he showed a lot of emotion as the father. In fact, they thought his scene towards the end with Thomas Mann was the best one in the film:


  3. I just want RA fans not to take the bad reviews to heart. We know Richard did the best he could with the script he was given. We need to see his movies for ourselves and form our own opinions.


    • From watching the first bit of the Q&A from the Friday showing, it looked to me like the standing ovation was when the real-life Doctor came out on stage. That’s when the cell phones wee out on stage filming the audience. Maybe there was a standing ovation for the film too, but hard to say unless we were there.


  4. The more of these reviews I read, the more I find myself asking questions about how you evaluate a film after seeing it once (which is what I assume is what is going on in most of them). I took notes, I used my “house of memory” technique, I wrote down impressions — and I think there are things in this review that are just wrong. Of course, reviews are under more pressure to evaluate quickly and that leads to errors. I agree that the characters are not written well, and also that there’s not a huge amount of suspense in the film, but to say they are not emotionally involved in the question of whether Susannah’s diagnosis is psychiatric is flat out wrong (there’s a scene devoted to this in a doctor’s office, and it’s one of Armitage’s “angry” moments), as is the claim that there’s no “huge flood of relief” — there is, with facial closeups of all of the major characters.


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