• Daniel Rae

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Review

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", Fantasy Films, 1975

Providing the framework for the exploration of mental illness and the institutional control that previously shaped the understanding of the human psyche in films, Foreman's classic is a sobering experience - a fragile and honest look into the shame and the emasculation of these characters that questions the definition of insanity in a refreshingly stripped-back way.

The story of 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' is a melancholic yet beautiful one. Although the seemingly basic and forthright use of the camera frames a pitiful sense of stagnation in these men's lives, there is a surprising amount of expressive features, both stylistically and tonally that grounds a somewhat unorthodox natural sense of pace that springboards the humour and the sadness which the screenplay lies in the balance between in an incredibly precise way. This individual and self-contained sense of preciseness with the flow of the narrative helps provide an equally precise feeling that is built upon throughout in an extremely methodical way. Progression feels awkward and sluggish; The diegesis focusses on small motives rather than building from established plotpoints, providing a wealth of room for the writing to slowly peel back the lack of understanding of oneself and the world one exists through a brutally natural lens. The contemplative angle this film is locked into, although seemingly slow, plays out through bursts of both warm, unhinged and unfiltered portraits of humanity - carried by the brilliantly-realised and fragile dynamic between Nicholson's McMurphy and Fletcher's Nurse Ratchet, both of whom provide poignant insights into the rabbit hole that comes with the animalistic nature of man that the ward characterises and the type of control that needs to be exerted over individual identity. Each powerful performance surrounding them deepens the rabbit hole with different personalities that provide different lenses onto the label of insanity, attaching a great amount of justice when it comes to dissecting the individuality of one's vulnerability against themselves, all the while remaining theatrically-engaging with delicate direction and characterisation.

Overall, "One flew over the Cuckoos Nest" is a focussed statement that contemplates on the conflict between freedom and control, presenting it in an equally grounded and creative way. The cynicism it presents towards this argument fully-dimentional, never drowning out the unfiltered fun of its highs that encourages the audience to think about the impact of its lows as it loiters in the shadows.

4.5/5 Stars

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