Written by: David Koepp
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Amanda Seyfried, Avery Essex, Geoff Bell, Lowri-Ann Richards
Court rulings proclaiming one to be innocent does not always indicate the truth, but rather what can be proven through the court of law. The real punishment comes from the guilt the perpetrator must live with for the rest of their lives. A reality that gets uncovered in the mysterious yet lacking You Should Have Left. Certainly brings some intrigue with its story but it begins to fall apart as it progresses.
Theo (Kevin Bacon) lives the retired lifestyle with a younger wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried), and daughter Ella (Avery Essex). Theo decides they need a nice getaway, which leads them to a luxurious cabin in Wales. With their time spent in the cabin, they begin to have nightmares and notice some irregularities in the house and how it has an adverse impact on them.
If anything, You Should Have Left gives more credence that no matter how nice the peace and quiet seclusion can be, going out to a place with limited reception and lack of other people will spell trouble. I’m not sure these types of movies need to spell it out for people to finally get with the program. This type of setting sets up for crazy things to occur with no one around to help. With the perfect quietness of the countryside, every sound makes an impact and can cause fear. This certainly gets utilized in this film to a limited effect but most of the attempted stress comes from what occurs internally with Theo as he tries to work through some mental struggles.
He has a murky and unsettling past with the death of his ex-wife still lingering in his mind. He tries to meditate but he still struggles with those feelings, which does not get helped by his new wife being much younger than him and in a profession that does not necessarily make him comfortable. This gets shown explicitly when he tries to visit her on set and Susanna is in the process of filming a sex scene for her latest project. It does raise the question of how jealous actors’ partners get when their position may involve pretending to be intimate with others. The jealousy only gets spurred when he’s not allowed on the closed set and he can only hear his wife making orgasmic noises.
Safe to say Theo has plenty going on in his head, which makes the experience of being in this cabin so distressing. Things move and arrive in places he had no recollection placing. The long hallways allow for manipulation of what can be seen. There seems to be a large abundance of lights needing to be turned off at night with seemingly no end. He dreams of terrifying scenarios including one where he finds his daughter dead and he takes some drastic measures to assure the whole sequence takes place solely as a dream. A variety of events happen, which only continue to stress him and his family out to the point they should just leave, as indicated in the title.
Proper departure, however, arrives with its complications, which makes sense because this has to be a movie after all. While the build up of this house and its strangeness has some genuine intrigue, all of the answers given by the film felt fairly dull and tedious. It raises so many questions about how they actually ended up there and why doors appear at different times and does not in others, but when it all gets uncovered, it does not create for anything thrilling as would be the hope. Now, the overall message of what occurs narratively certainly tracks in establishing the purpose of the house in a thematic sense. That certainly cannot be taken away from the film, but when the credits roll and the entire story gets examined as a whole, nothing of real substance actually occurs. The story ends with the touching moment it wanted to espouse but it felt like the story had forgotten to explore the other various threads it lays out throughout the narrative. It just causes a big shrug of the shoulder in the end.
Even with it always being a pleasure seeing Amanda Seyfried on-screen, You Should Have Left ultimately feels lacking as an overall story. It sets up some very intriguing plot points but fails to truly deliver on many of them, which honestly could have been more engaging than the theme it eventually expands upon. In the end, it does not produce many scares, and the moments of tension work fine but it feels incomplete. A decent effort with some revelations to enjoy but nothing worth seeking out.