You Should Have Left is the kind of thriller that even a bored M. Night Shyamalan would call uninspired and predictable. It’s a lazy thriller that runs out of steam early on with vain hopes of making a labyrinth suspenseful.
After his actress wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried, Anon) wraps a shoot, Theo (Kevin Bacon) suggests a getaway with their young daughter, Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex). They settle on a lavish home by the Welsh countryside, but Theo quickly realizes something is off with their vacation retreat. Theo’s got his own issues to sort out as he’s becoming jealous of his wife’s career and obsession with her phone as well as his own infamy from his previous wife’s death. As truths start coming out, Theo learns there may be something far more sinister in the house as time and space don’t play by normal rules.
Maybe the scariest thing about the film is the thought that some casting agents thought having Seyfried play Bacon’s wife was credible. Oh sure, there’s a ton of forced jokes about the age chasm, but merely saying what viewers would think doesn’t make it any better.
Give Bacon credit for putting up a good fight against Father Time. He’s a relatively young looking 61, and kinda looks like Tom Brady’s older brother. It’s just at 34, Seyfried is better suited to play his daughter than wife. Robin Wright or Nicole Kidman for example easily could have played the wife and Theo and Suzy could have just had their granddaughter for the getaway instead. This leads to more than a little uneasiness in the more physical scenes and it’s hard to buy that even Bacon and Seyfried bought into the notion they were a couple either.
The film finds better footing with Bacon paired with Essex, who impressively pulls off a child’s exuberance and warmth with a curiosity beyond her years. Essex is the film’s MVP as she stands out in all of her scenes. Seyfried is absent for most of the second half and while it doesn’t make a ton of sense considering the point Susanna dips out she’s not missed either. Susanna isn’t exactly written as the deepest character and is treated like a disposable presence at the midway point. Seyfried deserved better.
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Theo has obligatory horror/thriller terrible bad judgment that makes him go into deserted hallways and call out to strangers in the distance. Pro tip: this strategy never results in anything good. At one point, Theo starts slapping himself, which is a very relatable metaphor for viewers.
Director/Screenwriter David Koepp (Secret Window) adapts Daniel Kehlmann’s novel, which seems to add another example to the cliche of the book being better than the movie. Koepp has an extensive history of screenwriting hits from Carlito’s Way to Jurassic Park to Mission: Impossible and Spider-Man. He’s also had a few more recent misfires including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Angels & Demons.
Koepp goes against genre cliches by working in some suspenseful moments during the daytime instead of exclusively at night. He pulls off a few moments of spatial distance uneasiness, but the big problem here is Koepp can only do so many smoke and mirror thriller tricks to get around the telegraphed ending.
Calling the film’s payoff a twist would be a disservice as it’s amazingly obvious right from the start how this is ending. A better twist would have been literally anything else as that would have provided some measure of surprise.
You Should Have Left has the good decency to be relatively short at 93 minutes, but given the end result, just avoiding it altogether is probably the better suggestion.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures