Spanish title: Frágiles
Country: Spain / UK
Director: Jaume Balagueró
Produced Joan Ginard and Albert Martinez Martin for Castelao Producciones, Future Films, Just Films
Story and screenplay: Jaume Balagueró, Jordi Galceran
Music: Roque Baños
Cinematographer: Xavi Giménez
Editor: Jaume Martí
Art director: Alain Bainée, Iñigo Navarro
Cast: Calista Flockhart (Amy Nicholls), Richard Roxburgh (Robert Marcus), Elena Anaya (Helen Perez), Gemma Jones (Mrs. Folder), Yasmin Murphy (Maggie), Colin McFarlane (Roy), Michael Pennington (Marcus), Daniel Ortiz (Matt), Susie Trayling (Susan), Lloyd F. Booth Shankley (Simon), Michael Gatward (David), Scarlet Carey (Emma), Cameron Antrobus (Jimmy), Olivia Bjork (Linda), Fergus Riordan (Richard), Arthur Rogers (Nicholas), Karmeta Cervera (Charlotte Rivers), Freda Dowie (Old Lady #1), Matyelok Gibbs (Old Lady #2), Jeremy Williams (Engineer #1), Ewan Watson (Engineer #2), Stuart McLauchlan (Engineer #3), Lavinia Bertram (Susan’s Mother), Max Batista (Adam), Geoffrey Beevers (Father Tom), Ivana Baquero (Mandy), Richard Felix (Paramedic #1), Ben Temple (Paramedic #2), Montse Triola (Paramedic #3)
Spanish takings: €3.012.552,94
Spanish spectators: 605.967
Spanish subsidies: Ayudas a la Amortización de Largometrajes – General (€1.000.000,00), Ayudas a la Conservación de Negativos y soportes originales (€13.767,20), Ayudas a la Minoración de Intereses – Producción (€29.149,08)
Budget: €7,000,000 (estimated)
Amy Nicholls (Calista Flockhart) arrives at her new temporary job in a children’s hospital on the Isle of Wight that’s in the middle of being closed down. Only one ward of children, many of whom have terminal illnesses, remains open, and it’s her job to look after them during the night-time hours. Pretty soon, however, it becomes clear that all is not right: one girl, Maggie (Yasmin Murphy), talks of seeing a ‘mechanical’ ghost; Amy’s predecessor dies in a mysterious road accident; and one boy’s leg breaks under mysterious circumstances.
After hearing strange noises for herself, Amy decides to investigate, and discovers that it all has something to do with a former patient called Charlotte, a young girl who had suffered from brittle bone disease and died under mysterious circumstances back in the 1950s. Meanwhile, however, the ‘ghost’ seems to be becoming increasingly angry, and things become increasingly perilous for the few people left in the hospital.
Over the past ten years Jaume Balagueró has established himself at the vanguard of the new Spanish horror movement, and his 2005 production Fragile continues in much the same vein as his earlier films, The Nameless (99) and Darkness (2002). All the same themes and stylistic trademarks are there – ornate but crumbling buildings, emotionally disturbed adults, children endangered by the supernatural repercussions of the past – and again it makes for a slick, entertaining, almost scary mix.
This is all good stuff. Although the story is a little over-familiar, it’s well written, the characters are nicely drawn, and Balagueró cloaks it all in sombre, spooky atmospherics. The hospital setting, with it’s long abandoned second floor, is effectively used (it was actually built on set in Barcelona, with just the exteriors being shot in the Isle of Wight), and it has a serious mindedness which seems particular to the Spanish form of the genre. There are a few problems – the climax is rather confused and a little naff, the plot a little too predictable – but these are easily put to the back of the mind.
Given that I absolutely loathed Ally McBeal and found Calista Flockhart unbearable in it, her performance in this came as something of a pleasant surprise. She’s not the greatest actress in the world, but she’s not bad, and she’s extremely well suited to the role of a damaged neurotic. Richard Roxburgh, of Van Helsing, provides Sean Pertwee style support as a dishy doctor, and Elena Anaya (another Van Helsing almumnus) is appealing as another nurse. Plaudits also to young Yasmin Murphy, who’s really very good (as are all the children, actually). It’s so refreshing to see a British child actor who doesn’t have that unique overconfident woodenness that seems to be the prime result of a stage school education.
This was another production from the busy Castelao Producciones, who also made Darkness and a bucketful of other interesting films (The Machinist, El Segundo nombre, Perfume, El Lobo etc etc etc). In many ways, they’re one of the few production houses in the world that truly continue in the tradition of Hammer and New World, turning out mid-range, highly competent genre productions that generally have a little class about them.
Review by Matt Blake, 2007
What the critics said
“…even within the loose boundaries of nightmare logic, this nonsensical effort from the co-director of [Rec] is more silly than scary, leaving the poor, miscast Flockhart to carry the whole sorry mess on her shoulders.” Damon Wise, Radio Times.
Notes and further information