I’m not exactly sure what writer/director David Koepp wants us to get out of his new Universal/Blumhouse film, You Should Have Left. I’ve been mulling over the ending and I’m wondering if it’s the reason why there are so many lackluster reviews. That’s not a great way to start a review, I know, but it’s really bothering me.
Keep in mind, we have MASSIVE SPOILERS from here on in. You’ve been warned.
You Should Have Left stars Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried as a married couple with a young daughter, played by Avery Essex. If you just balked at the age gap, so did I, but it’s addressed in the film, in fact, its a plot point. Bacon plays a man with a tragedy in his past and his very name haunts him. Seyfried plays an actress, who is clearly too young for him. Bacon’s character is insecure in the marriage, both for his age and his past and the two of them decide to get away for a few weeks before she has to go away to London to shoot a film.
They rent a huge house in Wales, far out in the countryside, but the beautiful house isn’t what it seems. All three of them are having bad dreams, doors appear and disappear, its bigger on the inside than on the outside, and the people of the village seem to know all about the house, but won’t clue in Bacon, who suspects something is wrong pretty soon.
The most interesting part of You Should Have Left is the house itself and how it’s a living thing that changes and rearranges itself and messes with time because that’s literally been my reoccurring dream since I was a little kid. I call them my architecture dreams, where houses wind into themselves endlessly, stairs don’t go where they seem, you keep going into the same room over and over again, no matter which way you leave. I wonder if Koepp has these dreams? I’ve talked to a couple of others who have, so I know I’m not alone. I was really intrigued by the house, less so with the house’s occupants.
Bacon, Seyfried, and Essex all turn in solid performances in You Should Have Left, but let’s just dive right into the problem I have with this movie. Bacon’s character was accused of killing his first wife -him being rich made the investigation and trial turn into a media circus. He has maintained all along that his wife had taken some pills and fallen asleep in the tub and drowned and he had come home to find her dead. The weirdness of the house is connected to that. Its a soul collector for the Devil, Bacon and family was drawn to it. Meanwhile, insecure in his age and the fact that his wife is on the phone all the time, he starts to suspect her of infidelity. When he finally catches her, its no shock, just disappointing (for us, or me at least). It really has very little bearing on the events of the film and more or less is nothing but a layer of a subplot to pad the run time. In the end, Bacon is his own devil and his wife and daughter will be in Hell with him if he doesn’t let them go. So he finally has to admit that he could have saved his wife, but he just hated her so much, he didn’t, he let her drown when he should have just divorced her years before. I fucking don’t know what to do with that!
“I realize I should have divorced her instead of letting her die.” First off, would that even be considered murder? I’m not going to have that Googled question in my search history, but it’s safe to say we’re in a moral gray area, where she OD’d and he didn’t pull her out of the tub. I think his love for his daughter and how hard he fights to protect her make a damn strong case for redemption, even though he remains a lying bastard that watched his wife die. On the scale of horrible things humans do to each other…he’s not Hitler. Why would the Devil have an elaborate trap for this fucking guy? If he’d been an abuser if he’d intentionally killed her and gotten away with it if he had a bunch of bodies buried in his backyard…I could start to believe it, but Bacon just doesn’t come across bad enough to warrant such attention. Maybe if the Devil came to collect at the family’s actual home?
The ending just did not land for me, but I thought about it for a good chunk of time afterwards. It’s well-directed, the cinematography is fantastic, and again, strong performances. It’s just that the script could have been a little punchier. Maybe a PG-13 rating hurt it too? It’s a very mild movie, as far as violence goes. I guess it just feels too low stakes. I would level a similar criticism at another film I just watched last night, the latest adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, The Turning; there is so much goodwill built up until the last ten minutes of each film, where neither went in a satisfying direction. Koepp is a strong talent, look at Stir of Echoes, but You Should Have Left needed a stronger foundation to support its great concept.