Fragile (Frágiles)


Rating 2¾

Directed by Jaume Balagueró

Written by Jaume Balagueró and Jordi Galcerán

Starring Calista Flockhart (Amy Nicholls), Richard Roxburgh (Robert Marcus), Yasmin Murphy (Maggie), Gemma Jones (Mrs Folder), Elena Anaya (Helen Perez), Colin McFarlane (Roy), Michael Pennington (Marcus), Daniel Ortiz (Matt), Susie Trayling (Susan), Ivana Baquero (Mandy) and Karmeta Cervera (Charlotte)

Amy Nicholls starts work as the night nurse at Mercy Falls Hospital for Children on the Isle of Wight. The hospital is in the process of being closed down and only eight children remain, cared for on the first floor of the old crumbling building. One of the children, Maggie, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, tells Amy about Charlotte, a “mechanical girl” she communicates with using letter blocks. Strange things happen and Amy becomes convinced Charlotte is real and that the answer lies on the second floor, which has been sealed off and unused since 1959.


This is the fifth film I have seen by the Catalonian director Jaume Balagueró, including one made for Spanish television, and although I would not claim he, as yet, by any stretch of the imagination, matches the best work of iconic American horror film directors like John Carpenter or Sam Raimi, I do really like what I have seen. In fact, if I think about it, I would have to consider Balagueró to be one of my favourite current film directors, although this is not something I had given much thought to up until now.

While watching the film I found myself thinking about ‘Don’t Look Now’, the cult 1973 horror film directed by Nicolas Roeg. The two films are not really similar, but there was something about ‘Fragile’ that reminded me of the earlier film and I couldn’t help but wonder if the horror genre will ever scale those heights again. Having said that, it is many years since I last watched ‘Don’t Look Now’ and perhaps I simply recall it through rose-coloured glasses. It is a film I must make a point of watching again sometime soon, both because it made a huge impact on me the first time I watched it and also to find out if it really is as good as I remember it being.

I enjoyed ‘Fragile’ very much. It follows the pattern of the other Jaume Balagueró films I have seen. His filmmaking style bears greater resemblance J-Horror than it does to, for example, the ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’ films. He does have an aptitude for building up a convincing level of unease and creepiness and that is particularly well captured here. He also has a penchant for using old Gothic buildings as a backdrop for his films. The setting, the tiny Isle of Wight, which is located just a few miles off the south coast of the English mainland, is a good one, although I suspect the film was actually made largely in the Catalan area of Spain.

The plot is quite simple and, as might be expected, the film covers well worn ground. The story takes place in winter time and the rainy setting does help to evoke a sense of isolation and melancholia, which benefits the narrative. One thing I did notice that pulled me straight out of the film was that up on the second floor of the hospital, which had supposedly been sealed off and unused for more than forty years, there were modern light switches. It was just a passing observation, but for some reason I could not put it out of my head and then found myself actually looking for other inconsistencies.

‘Fragile’ has a box office gross a little under $6.7 million. It does not seem to have been given a theatrical release in the UK or US.

Review posted 29 August 2009


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