Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 28th, 2022
The Yellow Wallpaper (K. Pontuti, 2021) 1½ out of 4 stars.
Charlotte Perkins Filman’s chilling 1892 tale of a woman constrained by isolation and insanity is brought to the screen in director K. Pontuti’s debut feature film. The Yellow Wallpaper seeks to capture Filman’s chilling progression of Jane (Alexandra Loreth) as she wrestles with the unflattering and repulsive walls of the nursery for which her husband and personal physician, John (Joe Mullins), confines her as a cure for her physical and mental ailments. But while trying to capture the literal plot of the classic short story, Pontuti fails to portray the content in any interesting or compelling manner and takes a literal approach to the source material that hurts his film in terms of aesthetic and storytelling.
The Yellow Wallpaper does, however, give viewers a full version of Filman’s story, showing Jane’s full progression from anxious to mentally unstable, with a strong performance by Loreth, who tackles extreme character stakes and development. The film’s overall cinematography and editing provide the composition and artistic style necessary to create uneasiness, and I appreciate the direct quotes as an homage to the original text. While it does nothing to impress, Pontuti’s foundations are certainly solid.
While the film has a tremendous amount of potential and seems to be on the right track at first, The Yellow Wallpaper fails incredibly quickly. Beginning with its horrid pacing, which introduces sequences and scenes that only slow the film down further, Pontuti takes their time to get to the main ideas of the story, focusing on adding additional aesthetics and locations to build Jane’s character, but only succeeding in delaying the film up to the last third of the run time. The distracting sound design and score, initially creepy in tone, become incredibly distracting.
The Yellow Wallpaper’s biggest flaw is that it embraces a hyper-realistic approach to its otherwise supernatural content. The viewer never truly gets to see the “woman in the walls,” the ever-changing wallpaper, and many other supernatural forces originally written in the story. In fact, for a film named “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the focus of the film remains primarily on Jane, with small appearances by John as a bland and disinteresting husband/physician, and Clara Harte as a sister-in-law keeping tabs on Jane. The Yellow Wallpaper’s deadweight tone and lack of horror or mysticism is by far its biggest mistake, doing harm to the film’s integrity and entertainment value down to its core.