The Burlingames, Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), are heading off to the countryside for a break they both hope will spice up their marriage, for they have not been on intimate terms for a good six months now, and Jessie especially is wondering about the state of their union. But this forest house seems perfect, it's in a idyllic setting, away from any distractions, and Gerald has seen to it that they will not be interrupted for a few days, all the better to rekindle that flame of love. Or perhaps that flame of lust, for he has packed his Viagra and is planning a few bedroom games to make things interesting - but he has no idea just how "interesting" things can get.
Gerald's Game was supposed to be the Stephen King novel that was probably unfilmable, and sure enough though the rights to adapt it were snapped up, as they are with all his writings, the project lay in development hell for at least a couple of decades before Netflix, seeking to create attractive propositions to get potential customers to sign up, pumped a few million into the production and it was eventually made under the direction of horror specialist Mike Flanagan. It was one of King's briefest efforts, written in the same early nineties "women's literature" period that spawned the likes of Dolores Claibourne and Rose Madder, though it had more connection to the former.
This was because both shared scenes pivoting around an eclipse that had happened some time in the past, but were the site of two unforgettable, life-affecting experiences for both Dolores and Jessie, who each found a sudden, psychic bond in the telling of each story at the crucial moment. These two novels were not the favourites of many King fans, his change of direction proving divisive among the hardcore and casual reader alike, yet those who did like them truly loved them, which was another reason to bring Jessie's tale to the screen: there was a built-in audience at least curious to find out how this would translate to a film medium, and if there would be any of it left out.
Make no mistake, there were some contentious aspects to King's source material, and part of the explanation for it taking so long to reach the screen was that it was felt some of it would have to be toned down before a movie script was greenlit. Fans were happy, then, to see Flanagan had preserved almost everything from the book, from the gore to the theme of child abuse, and since that latter subject was almost constantly in the news headlines once this had been produced, it could not have seemed more timely. Really this was about guilt that the victims can feel for getting into terrible positions that are not their fault: adult Jessie was reluctant to be part of Gerald's sex game of being handcuffed to the bed, especially when he turns out to want to play out some form of rape fantasy with his wife.
In the book, she kicks him so hard that he has a heart attack and dies, though perhaps not wishing to make her quite so complicit in his death (not that she was to blame either way), in this Gerald simply overexerts himself on his little blue pill, though the actor's vanity rose its head when Harmon was obviously superfit with rock hard abs and pecs, rather than the doughy character from the page. Otherwise, it was much as those familiar with the book would anticipate, often to the point of dramatic sterility as the plot wore on, as films set in one location can be if the creators are not careful, though the addition of a ravenous stray dog to feast on Gerald’s rotting flesh and the mystery figure Jessie thinks she is hallucinating in the moonlight perked things up a bit. The central passage, where she recalls the memory she has done her best to forget when her weak father gave into incestuous feelings, was tastefully presented, as much as it could be, and the heroine's final empowerment was suitably resonant, oh, and the bit everyone recalls - the "glove" was there too. Not bad, but oddly televisual in a one hour and forty-minute condensation of a miniseries manner.