When her priggish forensic-psychiatrist husband (Hugh Bonneville) takes work at a high-security hospital for the criminally insane, a repressed woman (Natasha Richardson) gets involved with one of the patients (Marton Csokas). Surely taking a lover with a history of psychopathic jealousy is one remedy for feeling neglected, right? Asylum lacks the life of those Harold Pinter-Joseph Losey collaborations to which all subsequent British films about obsession and repression are reluctant heirs. Its only real surprise is how emphatically unsurprising it is. As you think, “Ah, let me guess what’s coming,” the movie cuts straightaway to exactly the thing you guessed. It’s very obliging that way, to the point of rudeness. Characters are similarly abbreviated; all you know of them is what the plot demands. There is at least some tragic irony, in that a movie with Ian McKellen (as the asylum’s lurking senior physician) could be so afraid of its own melodrama. McKellen supplies the only humor, but apparently it’s against the film’s will.

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