God's Crooked Lines: Paranoia or Reality?

Is Alice Gould mentally ill? Or, is she the victim of a conspiracy to leave her in a sanatorium while completely sane? The movie adaptation of the famous novel by Torcuato Luca de Tena is a fascinating puzzle full of ingenuity .
God's Crooked Lines: Paranoia or Reality?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 04 March, 2024

They say that Torcuato Luca de Tena pretended to be suffering from a depressive psychosis in order to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He succeeded and spent about 18 days at the Nuestra Señora de la Fuentecilla Hospital in Mexico, where there were about 800 residents. In the end, they ‘caught’ him and discovered him to be sane, but not before the seasoned journalist had obtained the story of his life.

His experience taught him about the complex micro-universe of mental health centers in the 1970s, as well as the praiseworthy work of doctors, nurses, and caregivers. Professionals who seek, above all else, to ‘straighten’ God’s crooked lines. He wrote a book about is experiences. It’s the essence of antipsychiatry.

Now, there’s a movie adaptation that can be found on Netflix. In fact, it’s become one of its most-watched shows. However, if you’re looking for a faithful representation of the novel in minute detail, you’ll be disappointed. However, we can assure you that this movie, directed by Oriol Paulo won’t disappoint.

“Particularly exquisite personalities are more vulnerable than coarse ones; in the same way that a cup is more fragile the higher quality the porcelain.

-God’s Crooked Lines-

God's Crooked Lines Scene
The movie, “God’s Crooked Lines” plunges the viewer into a maze of truths and lies.

God’s Crooked Lines: from the book to the movie

Those who’ve seen the work of screenwriter and film director Oriol Paulo will know his undeniable mastery of the thriller genre. Indeed, his exquisite gameplay and plot twists never fail to baffle and they certainly keep the viewer on their toes. Some examples of his work are Setback, The Body, Julia’s Eyes, The Invisible Guest, and Mirage.

God’s Crooked Lines (2022) moves away from the psychiatric background that was addressed in detail in the book. Also missing is a greater psychological contextualization along with some secondary characters. However, the tempos and dynamics of cinema are different and, in this case, the movie focuses exclusively on its central axis, the female protagonist.

Through the labyrinth of her mind, we’re immersed in a fragile reality, one in which it’s difficult to distinguish sanity from madness and truth from inventiveness.

“Alice congratulated herself on finding an exact definition for her mood: a quiet sadness.”

-God’s Crooked Lines-

Alice Gould, a woman in search of the truth

The movie begins with an aerial view of a forest. This is followed by a scene of a road along which an elegant woman drives a red mustang. The opening is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s visual narratives. In the car, is the protagonist, Alice Gould, a private investigator. She’s been hired to investigate an alleged suicide that occurred in a psychiatric hospital.

She enters the institution voluntarily, feigning paranoia. During her investigations, she has the help of one of the inmates who helps her clarify whether the leaders of the center were responsible for the murder. It doesn’t take us long to connect with Alice. She brings wit, determination, and remarkable intelligence to the role.

However, soon doubts about her identity and her sanity begin. After a series of serious incidents, the protagonist decides that it’s time for her to leave the center. But, to her surprise, those in charge of the sanatorium refuse. Is she really an investigator hired to solve a crime? Or is she just another patient and a victim of her own delusions?

Between madness and sanity: the eternal fragility of truth

The movie plays masterfully with timelines and script twists. On the one hand, we find ourselves doubting whether Alice is who she says she is or not, or just another resident of the psychiatric hospital. Her confrontation with Doctor Samuel Alvar puts both her sanity and credibility in jeopardy.

On the other hand, we witness murders, escapes of inmates, fires, and the possibility that Alice is the victim of a plot to keep her locked up. This kaleidoscope of events takes place in the middle of a gloomy atmosphere, of infinite flashbacks and fast forwards, revealing dialogues, and ambiguous characters who make us change our minds at every turn.

In fact, the truth in this movie is fragile and imaginary at the same time. It almost simulates a house of cards that can collapse in an instant to shortly rise again with more towers and new cards. In a way, it’s the reflection of an extremely sick mind in which every kind of possibility exists at the same time, yet none of them are solid enough.

The adaptation of “God’s Crooked Lines” is a restrained and controlled psychological thriller that’s rewarding for any viewer who revels in script twists and open endings.

Scene of the crooked lines of God
The truth is always in question in the movie “God’s Crooked Lines”, hence its charm and challenge for the viewer.

An unexpected turn

While the novel, God’s Crooked Lines was undeniably unforgettable, the most that can be said about the movie that Netflix brings us is that it’s satisfactory. It certainly doesn’t reach the climax and mastery of Torcuato Luca de Tena’s divine narrative. However, its entertainment value as a cinematographic product can’t be ignored.

Barbara Lennie in the role of Alicia Gould is by far the most notable feature of the movie. Her interpretive ability is hypnotic and it’s thanks to this that the two-plus hours of the movie are sustained. Undoubtedly, it’s excessively long. However, it has a remarkable proverbial ending. It’s completely unexpected and a break that, once again, distances the production from the novel.

In fact, we continue not to know if the protagonist is a resident or a victim of a trap, forcing us to think again. Moreover, just as we assume that Alice is about to be released from the asylum, a familiar face appears.

This is Dr. Donadio, whom she thought was Dr. García del Olmo, the man who hired her to investigate her son’s suicide. A figure who, upon seeing her, utters an enigmatic question… “Hello Alice, what trouble have you gotten yourself into this time?”

Cinema and psychiatric hospitals: true classic plotlines

This is a movie that exudes the captivating essence of film noir. Likewise, God’s Crooked Lines presents wonderful reminiscences of other titles such as Shutter Island. In this movie, Martin Scorsese brought us Leonardo DiCaprio. He played a character in a psychiatric center, one who bordered on lucidity and madness. Oriol Paulo has done the same with Barbara Lennie.

There are many movies set in mental health institutions that show the fragility of the human mind. In fact, many of them are exceptional. Two such examples are Remember and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. These kinds of movies pay tribute to the individuals who suffer, to men and women who, as Luca de Tena said, are the crooked lines of life with their own histories.

These people aren’t crazy, they’re not outcasts. They’re suffering. They’re captives of their mental traps. To understand them, we must dig layer by layer and delve into their stories, making an effort to connect with their universes and glimpse their pain and chaotic worlds. Oriol Paulo’s film is a good exercise in achieving this.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.