Fixation takes a disorienting roller coaster ride through the subconscious

What did Dora (Maddie Hasson) do all those years ago? That’s the question she asks herself as she sits in a straitjacket in a hospital she doesn’t remember entering. What did his family do to him to earn this anger? That’s the question her doctors (Genesis Rodriguez’s Dr. Melanie and Stephen McHattie’s Dr. Clark) hope to answer for her through an invasive experimental psychiatric assessment. While the two issues ultimately go together given that his actions were a response to this abuse, separating them should always be undertaken with extreme sensitivity. Dora’s overall well-being should remain paramount no matter how effective therapy is in pushing her limits, as clarity can sometimes do as much harm as it can heal. Unless, of course, something else is going on.

This all stems from a filmed memory of a young Dora dancing in their home’s “trophy room” when someone tries to enter uninvited. Is it mom? Is it his brother Griffin (Atticus Mitchell)? Is it someone else? We don’t know because she doesn’t remember. Or, better yet, she doesn’t. want to remember. Who would consider what we assume happened once this unknown assailant broke in? We can only guess that regardless, she had to be even more monstrous to escape. So does anyone wonder if maybe Dora didn’t do what she accused of doing? No. There may be some wiggle room as to whether she had a choice. Maybe it was self-defense. Maybe it was a psychotic breakdown. Should a jury free her?

Rather than laying out the facts and letting a courtroom choose, however, Mercedes director Bryce Morgan Fixation (written by William Day Frank from a story by Morgan and Katrina Kudlick) wants Dora to decide for herself. It makes sense on the surface. If the doctors can unlock his trauma and allow him to recognize what happened, they will be able to better understand the diagnosis and the expert opinion they will provide. Where things go astray is in how they execute their plan. You see, Dr. Clark has a methodical six-step process that he says works without the need for drugs. He forces his patients to confront their past by altering their reality through an elaborate system of re-enactments, like a personal attraction at the House of Horrors theme park. The truth can no longer hide.

The result is a disorienting roller coaster ride through Dora’s subconscious. Spirit and matter converge until she gets lost in a maze of her own making. Except she didn’t make it. The people who populate these vignettes are familiar with both the hospital and his life as a deformed Wizard of Oz merging faces and names until the discrepancies fade to let the pain take over. Dora knows something is wrong. It’s not his brother. It’s not his mother. And sometimes it seems like they’re ill-equipped to deal with how dark and grim things have become. Are they actors? Hallucinations? Is Dora awake or asleep? At one point, Dr. Clark enters the frame like a rock idol basking in the warmth of sidekicks while his sanity hangs by a thread.

Morgan’s attention to detail is exquisite. The cast and crew quarantined themselves for months to work and act on custom-built sets in an abandoned six-story hospital. Each door leads to a new place. Each piece conceals a duality between real and imaginary, expected and unexpected. It all depends on where Dora is when she wakes up from her last violent episode. neither she nor we can believe anything. Maybe the room looks good, but a false wall leads to an outside memory she’s spent years repressing. Or maybe the next one leads to a courtroom of grotesque figures masked as if ripped off Pink Floyd The Wall. And all the while, we hear The Drifts’ cover of Cults’ “Always Forever” triggering Dora’s fight or flight to eleven.

So we have to ask ourselves: when does therapy become as bad as abuse? Dora endured untold injuries thanks to a family of gaslighters who portrayed her as the abuser until she had no choice but to believe it. She is the one who was mean for not “playing” with her brother. She is the one who made her mother drink when her dance reminded her of a future she could no longer pursue. Dora’s mind is so twisted that she had to forget her own actions to justify theirs, because the alternative would cripple the illusion that her childhood sibling’s dynamic was based on love. And now Dr. Clark is doing the same. Torture her to satisfy her own means regardless of the impact.

What is the alternative, however? Dora faces a choice between prison and Dr. Clark’s care. One would seem worse than the other on conditioning alone, but the clarity might prove otherwise if his so-called reprieve is based on another type of incarceration. Although the entirety of Fixation focuses on Dora being in a fluid state when it comes to whether her feet are firmly planted on the ground, and whether Dr. Clark’s own sanity has been lost? It doesn’t matter that his methods can “fix” Dora’s mind if the price to pay is to break it again. Freedom is not allowed to manage the asylum; it is to leave it far behind. Is trading one manipulation for another worth it?

It’s a question that leads down a rabbit hole of violence where the false sense of salvation turns out to be another chain holding you back. Diapers go much deeper than you might initially expect once the artifice is torn off bit by bit since Dora’s awakening can’t help but bleed into the minds of those who already thought so. were awake. Everything is therefore mastered from beginning to end. Predatory control. It’s about reducing Dora to a cog in a machine built to bring joy to someone else. So maybe she should thank her doctor after all. By refocusing her memories to acknowledge her victimhood, she can also acknowledge that it never ended. Because one wall is not enough. They must all fall.

Fixation had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

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