I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
After all you Breaking Bad fans take a ride with the acclaimed series’ feature film continuation, El Camino, this weekend on Netflix, hop on over to Fractured. Actually, you don’t need to be Breaking Bad fan at all to appreciate Brad Anderson’s psychological thriller.
Fractured centers on Ray Monroe (a never-better Sam Worthington), a father and husband who is driving cross-country with his wife (Lily Rabe) and young daughter (Lucy Capri). The family stops at a highway rest area where his daughter falls and breaks her arm. After Ray frantically rushes to a nearby hospital and clashes with a nurse at the check-in, his daughter finally sees a doctor to treat her injury. While his daughter and wife go downstairs for an MRI scan, Ray plots himself in the lobby to rest his weary eyes. Upon waking up, Ray discovers that the hospital has no record or knowledge of his family ever checking in.
What unfolds is a Shutter Island and A Cure for Wellness type of mystery where viewers are left wondering what happened to Ray’s family. Where did they go? Is the hospital trying to cover up their misdeeds, or has Ray gone mad?
Fresh Fiction spoke with director Brad Anderson at Fantastic Fest in Austin last month. We discussed how his latest film continues some of the themes from Anderson’s previous work (Session 9, The Machinist) and what impact the material had on him personally.
Please note that the following interview includes *SPOILERS*. So, if you haven’t seen Fractured yet, maybe wait. But, to be honest, it’s a film where you can determine the destination early on. It’s the journey and performances that keep you glued in place.
Preston Barta: Your films have run the gamut, but I recognize thematic beats in Fractured that are also apparent in your other films, like Session 9 and The Machinist. What do you think doing this film right now says about you as a filmmaker?
Brad Anderson: “Well, sometimes the choices aren’t as calculated as, ‘I need to make a smoothie at this point.’ Sometimes it’s a practical, pragmatic choice based on a movie that comes together at a certain time. I’ve got different projects at various stages of development. Some are closer to getting made, while others may take some time or may never get off the ground. On the other hand though sometimes I do feel like I make choices based on wanting to do projects that are different from what I’ve done prior because it keeps me interested. The movie that I did before this was Beirut. It’s a political thriller that has a different tone and operates in a different genre. I was interested in doing something darker.”
“This was brought to me by the producers and Netflix as something that might be of interest to me. It’s like Session 9, in a way. They are tonally similar. When I read the script, it seemed like a cool opportunity. Doing a Netflix movie was appealing to me. For independent filmmakers, Netflix is a good playground for storytellers. It’s one-stop shopping. I don’t have to deal with foreign sales and all that. It’s quite satisfying to get the money you need and you make a movie. The speed of which we could get it off the ground was attractive.”
“But all that said, I like the story itself. I am drawn to these stories with characters who are this quest of self-discovery, trying to combat with some threat or hostile force that they think is out there but ultimately realize is within themselves. This felt like another chance to explore that theme in a slightly different way.”
I feel like you would make a good psychologist with all these different studies on the human psyche.
“[Laughs] Or, a really bad one. [Spoilers ahead.] But yeah, what I liked about this movie is after you’ve seen it, you can go back and watch it to delineate what parts of the story take place inside the head of the character. We’re essentially in his delusional reality. In this case, him believing he’s the hero and saving his family versus the objective reality, which is more horrific and tragic. To come up with ways to depict those different realities was a cool challenge. We wanted the delusions to be subtle. We wanted viewers to zap back on their Netflix to see the film again on a different level. I’m interested in movies that work on different levels like that.”
Exploring those different realities of the character, what did it teach you about your own reality?
“[Laughs] Whew. That’s interesting. Maybe that I am a bit bipolar myself. My early films were romantic comedies and then I took a detour with darker stories. It’s not easy to describe a person’s interests or psychotic state. We all have multiple personalities, in a way. It’s about which one you are acting out in this point in time.”
“When I am making a movie like Fractured, I’m sort of a different creative person than when I am making Beirut or Transsiberan. But that’s what I appreciate about what I do: tell stories in different ways and not be pigeonholed. If I have the chance to continue to tell different stories and try out new ways to tell those stories, that would be the ideal path for me in my career. I don’t want to keep doing the same thing.”
I am curious because there has to be more value in what you do than merely exercising your storytelling skills. Do you find yourself latching onto the themes of your films and incorporating them into your own life somehow?
“Yeah. I suppose there is some of that. I don’t know how conscious that is. I suppose we may be subconsciously drawn to a movie based on what you’re going through in that particular point in your life. I’m a father. I have two children. I know the struggles of being a new dad and how you can feel like you’re losing your mind. It can affect you on a psychological level, sometimes not in a good way, either. I’ve had moments where I have felt like I could get angry and become a different person.”
“We’ve all had that. Everyone has it within them, but under normal circumstances, you’re expected to tamp it down. However, what if you can’t? I say that because, I think, this character that Sam Worthington plays is a man in a troubled relationship, and he’s trying to be a good dad and husband, but it’s not working. We meet him at a time in his life when everything is on a downswing. His self-esteem is being challenged. On a personal level, I identify with characters who are like that as opposed to ones who are super successful. I like the loser characters more for some reason.”
I feel like the film captures the anxiety of being a father quite well. There’s a scene towards the end when Sam Worthington talks to a new dad in the hospital. That dad mentions how much he fears that he will drop his baby. It’s nice when a movie that has all these twists and turns, and you don’t know what to accept as real or fantasy, but it still leaves room to have genuine moments that people can relate to.
“Yeah. And that’s what we were aiming for. It’s cool to have these stories that are puzzles. They intriguing, but if you don’t get the emotional part of it right, nothing else matters. You have to believe this guy’s torment and that his daughter is hurt. All parents have had that fear when they have a child: What if there’s an accident? What do you do? Am I going to be able to keep it together to help my kid?”
“Part of me, in reading this, was thinking I can understand why someone who faced something so traumatic would want to put it away and not believe it and create my own reality to survive. The irony is that we live in a time now where the truth is so malleable anyhow. You have your truth and I have my truth. That’s the whole trend now. There is no real objective truth. It’s what you say it is.”
“In this movie, in some weird way, the bending of reality and truth is kind of relevant to the times we live in. You can make your own truth. Like this movie, you could just drive off into the sunset believing whatever you want to believe. Just don’t turn around and look at what’s in your backseat.”
Since we’re already in spoilers, how important was it to you to end on an ambiguous note? We get what we think is the final truth, but still, it go either way, like Shutter Island.
“Yeah. The last frame of the movie is a close up of Ray’s face after he’s just sung a song to his child in the backseat and his wife. It’s a sense of accomplishment and being a hero. ‘I did it! I saved them from the bad guys at the hospital.’ But then we kept it rolling, and in the last frames, you start to see his face fall, like it just dawned on him. That wasn’t in the script. In the script, it ends with, ‘Ray drives off into the sunset with his family.’ But I wanted to add a little of (what you just said) ambiguity for his character.”
“I wonder if he will wake up to the truth or not. That’s the question at the end of the movie. Depending on how bleak of an outlook you have on things, you can say better that he live in self-delusion, which is better than him living in reality. We all do that to a certain degree in our lives. We don’t want to face harsh realities. We just want to gloss them over and put them aside. Maybe there’s a little bit of that going on here. I find the ending to be sad and tragic, but it’s also poignant, too. He’s just a guy that wants to be a good dad. He wants to be a father and husband who did the right thing. At the beginning of the movie, he’s browbeaten and down. He doesn’t think that he’s got it. It’s not straight-up horror. It’s a tragedy with horror overtones.”
Fractured is now available to stream on Netflix.