Ben (Colin Firth) awakens in bed and knows something is wrong: this is not his bed, for a start, as he realises he is in hospital and then the memories hit him. He was in a car crash, and has been in a coma for the past week, but what of his wife? Elisa (Naomie Harris) was in the car with him and he recalls her dying at the scene of the accident; he has even missed her funeral due to his incapacity. As he gathers his bearings, the major news story of the week sinks in as well, about a pop singer who has been found brutally murdered, but could there be a connection between Ben and this horrific crime?
Director Marc Evans followed up his smart horror My Little Eye with this more minor work which did not enjoy anything lilke the praise or attention that his previous film had. And you can see why, as while before he had made a story with an clear twist and premise, here he was more intent on bringing out the ambiguities in Richard Smith's script, rendering the plotline deliberately confusing even by the finish line. If there was one thing that was in Trauma's favour, it was an atmosphere thick with menace, but when it all added up to a muddle it was somewhat wasted.
Ben goes from one hospital to another, as he is discharged then goes to live in a block of flats converted from an old building that used to house patients, complete with ominous morgue in the basement. You would think he would want to get away from any reminders of his misfortune, but at least he has the compensation of living across the way from New Age spiritualist Charlotte (Mena Suvari) who takes a comforting interest in the damaged soul, taking him to her church where Brenda Fricker holds sway over an audience of the bereaved.
But Ben doesn't see that he fits in there, and while he likes the company of Charlotte, he is in many shades of denial about his situation. However, precisely what he is in denial about is muddied in the obfuscating style of the piece, which as it progresses grows ever more frustrating. It appears to be setting out the jigsaw puzzle only by the end it doesn't feel entirely complete, so while you understand the truth of Ben's therapy session, for example, the significance of other aspects require a lot more concentration than the film really seems to be worth.
In its manner this is a murder mystery, except the murder doesn't happen until the end; sure, we are suspicious that Ben had something to do with the pop star's murder, but we are at a loss to explain what as although he is a prime suspect according to Kenneth Cranham's snooping police detective, he was in a coma when the killing was committed so presumably is off the hook, but then again why is he keeping a scrapbook of clippings and memorabilia of the dead star? With a curious mixture of the nervy and the morose, the film alternately trudges and twitches its way through its hazy narrative, ending in tragedy but leaving you unsatisfied for the most part, with only some better performances than the film was due sticking in the mind; otherwise, Trauma was easily dismissed, sadly. Music by Alex Heffes.
British director of downbeat films: low budget House of America was followed by the controversial Resurrection Man. My Little Eye was an inventive variation on the slasher genre and Trauma an exercise in psychological horror. After these was Snow Cake, a sensitive drama concerning autism.