Spider (2002)

Dennis “Spider” Clegg (Ralph Fiennes) arrives at a London halfway house in his childhood neighbourhood after his release from a mental institution. He is tentative in the free world, trying to acclimate to his new surroundings ruled by the stern Mrs. Wilkinson (Lyn Redgrave). Spider has some unique tics and tendencies—he wears several shirts at once, keeps his tobacco and trinkets in a sock down his pants, and hides his diary under the carpet in his room. As memories come back to him in his old neighbourhood, Spider recalls his mother (Miranda Richardson), father Bill (Gabriel Byrne) and the decline of his parents’ marriage. In his mind, his father was a drunk who cheated on his wife and murdered her after she caught him cheating at the garden allotments with Yvonne, a local regular at the bar. As Spider visits each landmark from his past, his paranoia gets the best of him, fueling him to protect himself in the halfway house in the only way he knows how.

Filmed in the U.K and Toronto, Spider is a more subtle addition to David Cronenberg’s library. Adapted from Patrick McGrath’s 1990 novel, the Canadian director took the screenplay that McGrath wrote, keeping the film true to the book. As we get a look into the mind of a schizophrenic character, played with typical artistry from Fiennes, we see how Spider becomes trapped in his own web of reality. With stark eeriness and a discordant score by Cronenberg’s long-time composer Howard Shore, Spider sits heavily in the mind as the character’s truths and despair are revealed.

Review by Carolyn Mauricette

Available on:




Cronenberg, Free to Watch

Canadian connection

Directed by David Cronenberg
Toronto, Ontario