You Should Have Left

While the Conroy marriage has been blessed with six year-old Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex), Theo’s (Kevin Bacon) jealousy and past history combined with his much younger actress wife Susanna’s (Amanda Seyfried) secrecy has introduced a wedge of distrust.  In order to repair the rift, the couple rent a modern manse in the Welsh countryside before Susanna starts shooting a new film in London, but the house begins to affect them all, especially Theo, whose own journal tells him “You Should Have Left.”

Laura's Review: C

The reunion of writer/director David Koepp and his "Stir of Echoes" star Kevin Bacon is an adaptation of a German novella by Daniel Kehlmann that plays up connections to “The Shining” and shades them mid century modern.  At first, this intrigues, especially with the house’s inexplicable interior design, which not only doesn’t match its exterior, but changes (also reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s 2000 cult book ‘House of Leaves’).  But by the time the film approaches its climax it’s all too clear where it’s headed and Koepp’s house of cards implodes.

After introducing the couple poolside at their tony estate overlooking L.A., we’re thrown for a loop along with Theo when he’s denied entrance to the outdoor set where his wife is working.  It is quite clear a sex scene is being filmed by Susanna’s loud moans and Theo is uncomfortable, but when his wife breezes up she claims to have confirmed his entry and the two head off for some car sex of their own.  ‘He recognized me,’ Theo informs Susanna.  ‘They think you’re dangerous,’ she tells him.  Hmmm…

After an overhead shot of a car traversing the narrow roads of the Welsh countryside (just like “The Shining,” except for this film’s near head-on collision which leads to a discussion on death with Ella), the Conroys arrive at their remote, isolated rental and are delighted with its sleek modern lines, soaring ceilings and painted brick walls.  But Ella is troubled by the shadow of a man that crosses her bedroom wall that becomes a creepy visitor and when Theo goes downstairs to turn out the lights at 10:34 p.m. he’s annoyed to find Susanna sound asleep upon his return, unaware that it is now 3:12 a.m.  After confirming where he’s staying, the local shopkeeper (Colin Blumenau, priceless) asks Theo if ‘anything’s happened yet’ and hands him a plastic protractor.  Back at home, Theo confirms the home has no right angles and, even stranger, has a living room that is five feet longer inside than out. 

This is all pretty freaky stuff, but as Theo writes in his journal while his reflection in the window isn’t always doing the same, we begin to get a sense of déjà vu (just as we did when Stephen King began to repeat himself with “Secret Window,” also adapted by Koepp).  Then a woman drowned in a bathtub begins to show up, bust loose from Room 237.  Just guess what happens when Theo tries to walk away from the house with Ella on a cold, dark night.

Koepp’s best work here is in throwing us into a troubled marriage and only slowly revealing the causes, a narrative device which keeps us on edge.  But once Susanna explains to Ella just why ‘everybody hates Baba,’ the film goes flat.  Bacon and Seyfried convey mutual wariness well, but Bacon over emotes in solitary scenes, his sideways glances at Susanna’s cell phone and laptop just before spying comical.

Once “You Should Have Left” trades its eerie minimalism for excessive nightmares it loses its unique bite. 

Robin's Review: C