1922 (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

Director: Zak Hilditch
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Zak Hilditch (screenplay)
Stars: Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid

“1922” is a novel by Stephen King that is about a simple yet proud farmer in the year 1922 who conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to participate.

When this film was released on Netflix on the 20th October I was excited and eager to see the latest Stephen King adaptation of 2017 following on from “It” and “Gerald’s Game”, the later also released via Netflix. There are three things you are guaranteed with a Stephen King movie and that is a good plot, suspense and a few frights on the journey.

Combine this with excellent direction from Zak Jilditch, (who I must admit don’t know anything about) and you have all the ingredients for a really good movie. “1922” doesn’t disappoint and to add the cherry to the top of the cake the acting is fantastic too.

Thomas Jane as Wilfred James probably isn’t the biggest household name by any means but here he gives his best performance as a man who states “I believe that there’s another man inside every man,” and in this movie there certainly is. Jane’s portrayal of a conniving man and the way he manipulates his son to be involved in the murder of his own mother is “right out of a Stephen King novel” To be honest there isn’t really a sudden change in the character to commit such a terrible crime. His character from the beginning is rather stern and quiet who doesn’t show much love or care towards his wife Arlette played by Molly Parker.

What I did like about the first hour of this movie was the build up to how things went wrong between the Husband, the Wife and their Son. Arlette was left 100 acres of prime land by her father on his passing and combined with the 80 acres of Wilfred’s neighbouring land they both were in a healthy position. The trouble was Arlette grew tired of the farm life and dreamed of the city life and using the money she would have selling her 100 acres to open a dress shop and taking their son Henry (or Hank) with her. Wilfred obviously not wanting the same life and living out his life as a farmer and one day passing all of the property, land and lifestyle to his son was his plans.

After a few arguments and confrontations it was clear to see these two people were never going to change their minds on what they wanted out of their lives and their futures with Henry being in the middle of it all. This is were the character of Wilfred begins to change in the sense of how he manipulates and gets inside the head of his son and convincing him that the farm life is the only life. Using Henry’s girlfriend as an emotional pawn in his game only assisted in Wilfred getting what he wanted.

Molly Parker as Arlette portrays a rather stubborn but strong woman in “1922” which I can only imagine being unusual in this period of time and was illustrated by Sallie Cotterie (Tanya Champoux) who was the wife of neighbouring farmer Harlan Cotterie portrayed by Neal McDonough. In a brief scene she is shown washing the dishes saying “Whatever you think is best” to her husband. Highlighting possibly a common response from a woman back in the 1920’s. Not Arlette though. She is determined to make a life for her and her son in the city and Wilfred knows this.

The sudden change of heart from Wilfred shouldn’t surprise the audience as clearly he has an agenda. You don’t brainwash your son for the best part of 40 minutes (on screen time) and suddenly backdown and accept giving up your lifestyle. Wilfred convinces Arlette that he after much thought and Henry “convincing” him that the city life might just be the way to go. I knew, you knew and everybody knew that at this point his plan was in motion. Celebrating the news with a drink or eight Arlette, aided by Wilfred is put to her bed to sleep off her drunkiness and so begins the murder of Arlette James.

One thing I must mention before I go any further is that I previously mentioned “a few frights on the journey.” There is none of that here and i’m not even adding an “unfortunately” to that sentence as this movie is more about guilt and regret. After committing this crime the downward spiral in the character of Wilfred and Henry is there for all to see and it’s the little things between them that the audience begins to notice that their relationship becomes strained and distant. Stephen King uses the what the body can handle the mind can’t in their characters and slowly but surely the guilt of what they have done takes hold of these two men for the rest of their lives.

The cinematography of the movie is also very well done and how the colours of brown, green and red appear in the tone and the setting reminded me a little of the movie “Signs” in an isolated farm surrounded by crop fields giving the movie a claustrophobic vibe and a sense of being trapped physically and mentally. Pacing appears to be an issue in the last third of the movie. It felt overly stretched in the final part and overemphasised Wilfred’s regret and sorrow in these scenes. Mostly the films pacing for the rest of it is slow and that’s not a criticism. It highlights the patience of a “conniving man”

“1922” came as a surprise Netflix release to me and its one of the best movie released on the streaming service. Stephen King’s Novel is adapted well and that’s thanks to Director Zak Jilditch and the acting in particular from Thomas Jane. I would recommend watching “1922” for this alone.

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