Spider, Ralph Fiennes, has spent time in a mental institution. Shabbily dressed, he arrives in the city by train and makes his way past an ominous-looking gasworks to a halfway house, run by grumpy Mrs. Wilkinson, Lynn Redgrave. Spider mumbles to himself constantly, and scribbles away in no known language in his notebook. Memories of his childhood come flooding back: his plumber father, Gabriel Byrne, his mother, Miranda Richardson, his father's mistress, also played by Richardson. As memories of the past and events of the present merge together, it becomes clear that Spider is again losing his mind. In this very creepy and unsettling film, which is based on a British novel by Patrick McGrath, David Cronenberg downplays the visceral horrors which were the feature of some of his earlier films. Ralph Fiennes gives perhaps his finest screen performance in the leading role, convincingly depicting a man on the edge of a complete mental breakdown. But Miranda Richardson is terrific, too, in two very contrasted roles - the mother and the whore. The mood of the film is close to that of one of those Ruth Rendell novels about the insanity to be found in everyday situations; the London we see onscreen is a frightening place, underpopulated, dank, mysterious and sinister, and Peter Suschitzky's skillful camerawork perfectly captures the off-center world of a mind losing its grip on reality.