Film Review: Doctor Sleep

Frances Winston reviews this sequel to The Shining, starring Ewan McGregor

Directed by: Mike Flanagan – Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis

Stephen King famously hates Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, so I wonder how he will feel about this interpretation of his sequel to his classic novel. Love it or hate it, the Kubrick version is very much the elephant in the room, and they were always going to have to address it.

The elephant aside though, this picks up the story of Danny Torrance (McGregor), the gifted young boy from The Shining, who has (understandably) grown into a deeply traumatised adult. Waking up beside a strange woman after a drink and drug-fuelled night, he leaves town and arrives in New Hampshire, where he finally cleans up his act.

Working in a hospice, he uses his gift to help patients in their final hours. But his world is thrown into disarray, when a young girl called Abra (Curran) starts contacting him telepathically. She is being hunted by a group known as the True Knot, who feed on the ‘steam’ of people who have The Shining, and they are determined to feast on her. In his efforts to keep her safe, Danny is forced to return to and reawaken the Overlook Hotel, and literally confront his past demons.

If you’ve read the book, there are a lot of glaring differences here (including the ending). Much like The Shining took a lot of dramatic licence with the source material, so too does Flanagan. He is forced to recreate Kubrick’s vision of the Overlook hotel, and bring back many of the iconic characters, and, while he does a good job, at times it feels somewhat disconcerting seeing other actors imitating the original stars.

That said, the last half hour, set in the hotel, is the best of the (rather lengthy) two and a half hour flick. Prior to this, the movie is more contemplative and psychological, examining the effects of childhood trauma. While it is good, there are at least 40 minutes that could be cut out of this section, without hindering the story. Also, the title comes from Danny’s work in the hospice, but this is never really fully examined here, so it will probably confuse some people.

McGregor is a safe choice to play the troubled Danny, and he has wonderful chemistry with young actress, Curran. Their connection never feels forced. Ferguson as Rosie the Hat – the leader of the True Knot – looks like she is having great fun. She seems to relish playing a villain, and even makes some of the more ludicrous dialogue sound convincing. Overall, no one stands out, but everyone does a good job.

In fact, the whole thing is very ‘safe’. Flanagan appears to be trying not to upset anyone, and this is actually the main problem with this movie. The pacing suffers as a result of this, and about 90 minutes in you do find yourself wondering how much longer is left.

Fans of the book will no doubt be disappointed with some of the changes. Fans of The Shining movie will have mixed feelings about the recreation of the Overlook. Fans of The Shining novel will probably be annoyed that they didn’t address some of the errors in the movie here. Basically it’s impossible for Flanagan to keep everyone happy. However, if you ignore the looming legacy that hangs over this, and just take this as a stand alone film, it is a solid thriller with few surprises, but enough to engage the viewer, albeit that it is slightly too long.

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