Streaming Vs Skipping: Netflix’s ‘God’s Crooked Lines’ is a twisty murder mystery set in an asylum

Streaming Vs Skipping: Netflix’s ‘God’s Crooked Lines’ is a twisty murder mystery set in an asylum

The degree of civilisation in a society can be determined by entering its prisons, according to a truism attributed to Dostoyevsky. God’s Crooked Lines, a Netflix original, questions whether the same could be true for Spain’s mental institutions in the late 1970s. When a detective investigates the inexplicable death of a patient by immersing herself in an asylum, she learns little about the lives of those who roam and control the facility.

Damián Garca del Olmo dies within the confines of an asylum, triggering a series of circumstances that lead to the entrance of private investigator Alice Garcia (Bárbara Lennie) to solve the crime. She poses as a patient in order to gain a ground-level perspective of the facility and identify the culprits. With the assistance of the self-aware and intelligent prisoner Ignacio (Pablo Derqui), she has a greater understanding of the patients and their care.

As her investigation progresses, she becomes increasingly suspicious of the doctors lead by Samuel Alvar (Eduard Fernández). Associating them with the murder, however, elicits a strong defensive response, with the designated authorities questioning whether or not Alice is who and what she claims to be. They use her strained relationship with her husband, who evaded death by poisoning multiple times, to discredit her efforts to uncover the truth. In this psychiatric ward, nothing is as it seems, including possibly Alice.

God’s Crooked Lines begins with a’seemingly’ sane person entering an asylum, reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Alice finds her new surroundings to be anything but a wonderland, raising the question of whether she is being gaslit, whether the hospital drove her insane, or whether she has always been this way.

Given the number of plot twists in Alice’s story, it is the responsibility of actress Bárbara Lennie to root the proceedings in the immediate psychological reality of the character. It is a difficult task that she proves capable of completing with poise and determination.

“If God created us in his image and likeness, like a sculpture without flaws, then the patients who wind up here would be like God’s crooked lines when he was beginning to write,” says the asylum’s director, Samuel Alvar. Obviously, any explanation of an unusual title piques interest, but this one is particularly intriguing because it is, to say the least, an unsettling depiction of the institution’s patients.

Sex and Skin: The only nakedness in the film occurs incidentally within the prison walls, so don’t anticipate any excitement from a cavity search or a communal shower.

God’s Crooked Lines begins strongly, but ultimately succumbs under the weight of its own intricacy. This approximately two-and-a-half-hour adaptation of Torcuato Luca de Tena’s novel is rich with significant plot developments. It appears that co-screenwriter and director Oriol Paulo loses the plot at one point. The wheels begin to fall off when complete chaos breaks out within the asylum, pushing Alice into “gaslight gatekeeper girlboss” territory. The filmmaking is ultimately insufficient to justify the mental effort required to keep up with a universe in which every motivation and action may be questioned.

Our Advice: AVOID IT. God’s Crooked Lines only serves to provoke ambivalence with its uncertainties. Flashes of mystery and undeniable deliberateness will attract some patient viewers. Untangling the web of conflicting narratives and arriving at one’s own conclusion regarding the unresolved ending would require a great deal of work, but the film does not adequately convey this.

Marshall Shaffer is a freelance cinema journalist living in New York. His work has appeared on Decider, Slashfilm, Slant, Little White Lies, and numerous more websites. Soon, everyone will discover that he is correct about Spring Breakers.


»Streaming Vs Skipping: Netflix’s ‘God’s Crooked Lines’ is a twisty murder mystery set in an asylum«

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