Veronika Decides to Die

Every so often, a movie will be described as having a “career making performance” from its star. Unfortunately for Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy fame, it’s just been reported that her career making performance will be making its debut in a straight-to-DVD release of the movie Veronika Decides to Die. The movie, which is based on a Paulo Coelho novel of the same, will be released April 27. AT the core of this movie, the story focuses on a beautiful young woman who tries to kill herself, but is unsuccessful. When she awakens, she is in a mental hospital being told that she only has days to live. It is there that she finds the will to live. While it may sound melodramatic, and I’m admittedly not doing the story justice, the thing that I think it has going for it is that it refuses to be a passive film. So much movie watching has been reduced to a spectator sport, but this movies questions and engages its audience on matters of life and death or of sanity and insanity.
The director, Emily Young, does a beautiful job of bringing the novel to life. While there is more introspection in the novel, Young handles the matter delicately. She uses the camera to do her dirty work for her, not relying on relentless voiceover, but instead using the camera as a character itself. The camerawork does an excellent job of evoking emotion and giving the viewer insight into the emotional state of the characters.
However, the success of the movie is owed just as much to its star, Sarah Michelle Gellar. While this may be mainly due to what I’ve seen her in before, although I enjoyed Buffy and The Grudge, it’s refreshing to see her break away from the PG-13 horror crowd. Don’t get me wrong, she’s good at it and it’s a steady paycheck, but when you get a chance to see so much more to her acting, it’s incredibly gratifying. This role was a definite risk for her, sadly one which doesn’t seem to have paid off, but although the film may not get a theatrical run in the US this role should not be ignored. At the heart of Veronika, is a young girl scared to be alone and even more afraid of honestly connecting with someone. Few actors and actresses could convincingly portray that, but Sarah Michelle Gellar does so effectively. Throughout the movie we watch her act with a mix of fear and empowerment. We watch the fear of loneliness and disconnect as it overwhelms her and we see her derive strength as she finds the will to live. Although the two emotions don’t seemingly go together, the relationship between the two feels so natural and the character, the actress, and the film itself make me believe her struggle.
Veronika Decides to Die may be making its US debut on DVD, but that should not deter people. Most movies that are straight to DVD releases are thought of as junkers, and realistically a good deal of them are, but Veronika Decides to Die is one of the more daring DVD releases I expect you’ll find. It may not have enough commercial appeal to guarantee it a nationwide theatrical release, but it’s got one thing most movies don’t these days, and that’s a soul. Unapologetic and unafraid, Veronika decides to Die showcases an unforgettable performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar.

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