Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story (2019) Movie Script

My name is Nellie Brown.
Poor girl was found
wandering the streets of New York
confused and disoriented.
They sent her here to us.
The New York papers
have dubbed her
the Mystery Girl
of Blackwell's Island
because when she was found,
she had complete amnesia.
The only thing she knew
was her name.
We continue to run her picture
hoping someone
will recognize her,
and while quite as few people
seeking lost wives or daughters
have made their way
to our island
in the hope of a happy reunion,
no one has claimed her.
And you say she has
no recollection at all
of who she is or how she
came to be in this place?
I'm afraid that's correct.
She has not a single memory
to comfort her.
Newspaper said
she was a pretty girl.
I can't say she's pretty at all,
not in my estimation.
No, gentlemen.
This woman is definitely
not my wife.
This woman has that
to comfort her.
She speaks in a high tone
for a loony
with bats in her belfry.
The sun, the star, the planet,
The sword.
I guess they all want to see
the mystery girl.
I'm sorry to keep bringing you
in here, Nellie.
I fear some of your visitors
read about your case
in the papers
and come simply
to satisfy a curiosity.
Of course,
we're obliged to see them,
in case they can shed light
on who she really was.
I'm myself,
even without memories.
Memories are the shelf,
as much as bricks are the house,
and you, dear girl,
are homeless.
I have a home.
I feel it. I...
I have feelings that...
Just now, when that man...
Feelings are not...
Doctor Ingram,
I believe Nellie's memories
still exist,
they're just cloaked.
And as her primary doctor,
it is my duty to help
lift that cloak...
Gently, over time.
Now, Nellie, I'm afraid
it's time for you to go back.
Before I go,
may I please have
my shoes loosened?
The bolt is so tight,
I cannot feel my feet.
No, my dear girl.
Your doctor shall not stoop
to loosen your shoes.
The bare idea!
But Ingram,
they're fastened so tightly
they're interfering
with her circulation.
Who has the key?
Matron Grady attends
to the patients' physical needs.
You are new to Blackwell,
Dr. Josiah,
but you will soon discover
that our patients' shoes
are locked tightly
for good reason.
I'll walk you back.
New York. That's where I live.
If I could just get off
this island and go back there,
I'm sure
I could remember something.
you can't leave this island
until you've recovered
your memory.
But I can't recover
my memory on this island.
I feel like Tantalus.
My memory, like the water,
always receding,
never allowed a drink.
You're well-versed
in Greek mythology.
But not my own history.
Back in the office,
you started to say
that you felt something.
Was it a memory?
No. It was more like a feeling.
A dislocated feeling can be
the footprint of a memory.
Can you describe what you felt?
I felt a flash of...
Affection, for a man.
Did you recognize him?
He was familiar.
Father, brother? Someone here?
I can't conjure his face,
just a flash of an image.
When I heard that man
say the word "bats",
something having to do
with the word "bats".
This is excellent.
This... this feeling about a man,
the word association.
This could signal you're
about to have a breakthrough.
Or I could just
really like baseball.
Don't give in to despair.
You have every reason to hope.
Now more than ever.
Uh... Beg...
beg pardon, Matron Grady.
Uh, the new doctor,
Dr. Josiah, ma'am,
is waiting in your office.
Oh. We don't want to keep the
young doctor waiting now, do we?
No. Is that too big?
Is that good?
Are you my love?
You're the prettiest.
That's right.
There you go!
Are you my lovely bird?
That's my bird, my sunshine.
Yes. There you go. All right.
You should have told me
you were waiting.
I'd like to discuss
Nellie's feet.
Oh. How unusual
for a doctor of the mind
to take an interest
in the other end of our girls.
Right, well, it would seem the
nurses have fastened her boots
a little too tightly today.
Did they?
I'll have a word with them.
Yes, thank you.
And if you would,
please loosen them now.
Oh, I can't do that.
But you have the key.
Dr. Josiah, you haven't
been with us very long.
There are 45 patients
in this hall.
That's 90 shoes in the morning
and 90 shoes at night.
180 turns of the screw
every day and every night.
And do you know how many staff
nurses I have in my employ?
I don't know, no.
Well in that case,
I would be happy to do it myself
if you'd be so kind
as to hand me the key.
I'd just like to point out
that if we adjust
one pair of shoes
we are going to be on our knees
all day long,
adjusting everyone's shoes
and then they will
slip out of them on their own
and what with fevers
going around,
well then, we would have to
call in the real doctors.
Oh, right.
I mean, the ones of the body,
not the thoughts inside it.
Matron Grady,
the thoughts inside a body
have a direct impact
on that body.
The health of one
determines the other,
more often than not.
Shall I sit down
or is the lecture over?
I'll move on
to the demonstration.
The key, please.
Thank you.
Little bird.
Now, Miss Brown,
can you tell us,
are your thoughts improved
now that your body is relieved?
They are transformed entirely.
Thank you.
Thank you for your indulgence.
Fevers are going around.
That's all I'm saying.
Tight shoes mean a tight ship.
I've never lost a
patient on my watch, Sir.
New arrivals are ready
for the bath, Ma'am.
Well, why don't we have Brown
give you a hand with the bath,
now that she's been transformed.
This island may have been
a hog farm once,
but Matron Grady
likes her piggies clean.
Bath time!
Who goes first?
All of it.
Be gentle with her!
You had your bath already,
Don't make me give you another.
I actually...
I don't need a bath.
I had one last night
and I won't be here long.
They'll come for me.
Yes, I'm sure
they'll be here any second.
I have to feed my baby.
If I don't give suck,
I'll lose my milk.
If you don't get into that tub,
you'll lose a lot more
than that.
Okay, let her have it.
Pretend you're
jumping into an icy lake.
Do it!
Stop that, I said!
Where is everybody going?
They're going to breakfast.
It's just like the chair
in George's nursery.
He'd bring him to me
in the mornings to nurse,
swaddled in his little
blue blanket with tiny ducks.
Whoa, whoa, you can't sit in it.
It's Matron Grady's.
Does she have a baby too?
Oh, God forbid.
I brought his little blue
blanket with me, but...
the nurses took it away.
I miss my baby.
Shh. It's okay.
Come on.
We have to get to the cafeteria
before they lock us out.
"Come down to Kew in Lilac time,"
"'tis not so far from London."
"Come down to Kew in Lilac time,"
"'tis not so far from London."
"And we will wander
hand in hand,"
"in love
in nature's wonderland."
Hand in hand...
in love in nature's wonderland.
Very good.
our annual ball is this week.
It's a very nice gift
from the Charities and
Corrections Commission,
and I expect everybody
to help prepare for it.
Bless, O Lord,
this food to thy use
and us to thy service.
Thank you.
A ball at an asylum?
Who ever heard of such a thing?
We have it every year.
It's a ritual.
Ritual and routine
are the cornerstones
of the Matron's cure.
So, do we pretend
they're at a real ball?
A New York society ball?
It is a real ball.
There's music and dancing
and socializing.
They're just a bunch
of sick people
dancing with each other
on an island of lunatics.
And that differs from New York
society in what way precisely?
Are we meant to eat this?
Best not to look
when she's feeding the bird.
Not if you wanna keep
whatever sanity you've got left.
I was told this would be
a rest-cure.
I rather thought it would be
like Dr. Kellogg's sanitarium.
You sound like you're from
the smart set.
I'm a daughter
of the American Revolution
and one of the first families
in New York.
Oh yeah?
Who were you?
She still is who she was.
We all are.
She's so touchy about it
because she don't know
who she was.
It's true.
I don't remember anything
from before my treatment.
What kind of treatment
did they give you?
I honestly couldn't say.
All I know is I woke up
and here I am.
They can't hold you captive
just because
you lost your memory.
They can do whatever they want.
I was a chambermaid.
I'm here because
I outlived my money.
They threw me in here on account
of how I made my money.
See that one there? Johari.
She only speaks Swahili.
And Rosa is from Mexico.
They don't speak United States.
That's all that's wrong
with them.
Then they should
hire a translator.
They're gonna die in here.
We're all gonna die.
We're all gonna die!
Nobody even knows
we're in here, or cares.
Well, I feel sorry for you,
but I'm from one of the very
vest families on Park Avenue.
Yeah, right.
You don't know she isn't.
When my husband and my brothers
find out I'm here,
they'll be on the first boat
out to get me.
You may rely on it.
After all,
I am still a Hollister.
"Mrs. Hollister
served pink lemonade
and rainbow sandwiches."
Miss Hollister...
Star, planet. Star, planet...
The sword.
Other foot.
There you go.
Oh, thank God.
"Mrs. Hollister
served pink lemonade."
Stop it! It's too tight!
Dr. Josiah said!
"Dr. Josiah said!"
You raise your voice to me
one more time,
and I'll have you thrown
into the Retreat.
There's places in there
your pretty doctor
will never find you.
Now get to bed!
All of you!
Shh. I miss my baby so much.
If I could just...
Touch his little blanket.
The first few nights
are the hardest.
Have you ever seen me before,
outside of this place?
I'm sorry, Nellie.
I've never known you
before tonight.
But, if you want me
to say differently, I can.
I can tell them
you're my cousin.
Then you can leave with me
when my brothers get here.
I'm so cold!
The shoes, the baths,
the recitations.
She makes it impossible
to think straight!
Try not to transfer your
frustrations with your recovery
onto Matron Grady.
Do you know, after baths
they open all the windows
just to watch us shiver.
More likely for the fresh air.
You don't know her.
Bridget McGuinness told me.
Matron Grady
beat her with a broomstick
simply for asking
for a drink of water.
Mrs. Cotter, they...
They stripped her naked
and they threw her
into the baths,
they threw a sheet
over her face,
held her down
until she nearly drowned!
Every woman in this place
has a story to tell.
That these women earnestly
believe these stories
does not make them true.
Most of these women
are not insane.
Yes, some were born silly
or forget themselves with age,
but most have been made crazier
by this place.
Injected with chloral
and morphine,
made to sit silently
from morning till evening,
taxed with back-breaking labour
with no purpose!
She has us hauling rocks
endlessly like Sisyphus!
Yes, there are some women
here with broken minds.
But most of them,
these women are not insane!
I am not insane.
You think I'm raving.
There's nothing wrong
with passion,
as long as it doesn't
tip over into mania.
Am I crazy?
I don't feel crazy.
Amnesia is my particular
area of expertise.
Amnesia, more often than not,
is the result
of some hidden trauma.
It creates a kind of...
blockage of the mind.
A trauma.
You told me about
Miss McGuinness and Mrs. Cotter.
What about you, Nellie?
What happened to you?
I don't know.
Well, that must be the focus
of our work together.
As for Matron Grady,
well, she's apparently
enjoyed many successes
in this stitution,
and from what I've read
in your file,
you're one of them.
It was Grady
who administered the treatment
that brought you
back to reality.
But my memory is destroyed.
Nellie, when you arrived
you were talking gibberish.
All you knew was your name.
Matron Grady's treatment
wasn't the cause of that.
No, I suppose not.
I did remember a name.
Was there a similar
feeling of fondness
as when you heard "bat"? No.
This was different. It was, um...
More like a memory.
I distinctly hear myself saying,
or reading, the name.
The Hollisters
are a prominent family.
They're frequently written about
in the newspapers.
Yes, yes, that's it!
It was a newspaper! Uh...
I, uh... I...
Close your eyes.
If you can,
imagine you're holding
the newspaper.
And try to feel it
between your fingers.
I can smell the ink.
And... and... and there are
flowers, on a desk.
Okay, now, slowly,
when you're ready,
I want you to look up
and tell me where you are.
I can't.
Every time I have a handle
on something,
it just... it falls away.
I can't think in this place.
I can't think in these shoes!
Are they still bothering you?
I told the nurses not to
fasten the manacles so...
I'll have another word
with Matron Grady.
In the meantime,
I've procured my own key.
If you'll permit me.
Yes, please.
every day when you come to me,
I can loosen your shoes.
So you can think.
Thank you.
It would probably be best
if this were to remain
our secret.
Of course.
Thank you, Doctor.
So, what are your thoughts?
I think I know
why you became a doctor
and not a baseball player.
Well in my defence, I think it's
only the second or third time
I've picked this thing up.
You know, back in England
we grew up playing quite a
different bat and ball game.
It's called cricket.
Well, I think I'll spare myself
any further blushes.
Come on, let's see
if you can do better.
Did you buy this just for me?
For my son, actually.
Oh, you have a little boy?
Uh, a girl.
But I didn't know it admittedly
when I got the bat.
Girls can play games too.
You should give this
to your daughter,
show her how to use it.
Yeah, I'm not sure
my wife would approve.
Right. Let's see what you got.
Oh, bravo!
So, any images, feelings?
No. Nothing.
It's like my memory
has nothing to anchor it,
nothing that's really mine.
Dr. Josiah, will you
do something for me?
A favour?
Of course.
As long as it's in service
of your recovery.
The new patient,
Lottie Hollister,
she misses her baby very much.
Yes, I know she does.
I think it would help her
if she could sit in
the rocking chair in the hall,
even for just a few minutes,
under your supervision,
of course.
You're asking if I can supervise
a woman using a rocking chair.
I think she can manage that
without me.
Of course she could,
if she were allowed
to sit in it.
You're saying
the patients in Hall 6
are forbidden from
using public furniture?
Matron Grady
won't let anyone use it,
and yet she sits in it
all the time in front of us.
Right. Follow me.
It's just like my chair at home.
Well then, you must use it
at least once a day.
She's in the chair!
Not allowed! She's not allowed!
I want to sit and rock.
Get away from there.
Get away!
Get away from there, you,
unless you want the switch!
You got to get out right now! Go!
Just wait your turn.
Ladies, if you can, just form
an orderly queue to one side.
Please, girls.
If you could, just...
What do you think you're doing?
It's all right. These patients
are under my supervision.
Ladies, please,
just to one side if you can.
Thank you.
When is my turn?
Me! Me! Me!
Is it my turn to sit down?
I haven't had a turn yet!
Uh, Madam,
you have to come quick.
That young doctor is letting
the patients use your chair.
Which patients?
All of them, Ma'am.
Nurse Lila, come along.
One side, girls, please.
Just to one side if you can,
thank you.
Who told you this chair
was your property?
Nobody. I don't need to be told
because it is
my personal property.
Then why is it here
in plain sight
where everyone can see it
and no one can use it?
The patients used to use it.
All they did was fight over it.
There were several injuries.
I don't let them sit in it now
because I don't have the staff
to monitor it all day long.
You can see for yourself
it's quite a task,
but I leave it here...
as a sense of home.
Of ho-ome.
A touch of the familiar.
For comfort
in what can be
a most impersonal place.
But if you order me
to have it removed, I will.
No, no, please.
No. That won't be necessary.
Nurse Grupe,
why don't you escort
these patients to the farm?
I think they could...
Quiet, quiet!
I think they could benefit from
some exercise and fresh air.
Yes, Ma'am. Come on.
They're hiding in the walls!
Get out now, Mariah.
Get out of the chair, Mariah.
They're hiding in the walls!
Let go of... the chair.
No! No!
The star, the sun...
It's mightier than the sword.
There are people
out there who have no voice!
Who are you?
What are you doing in here?
Please, this is mine.
This belongs to me.
Oh my heck.
I told all me friends
the mystery girl was in here.
They couldn't believe it.
They wanna know all about you.
Everybody does.
You're in all the papers.
You're famous. You know that?
I bet that when you get better
they're gonna
throw you a parade.
I bet they'll take you shoppin',
anywhere you want to go.
The only place I don't want
to go is the Retreat.
I don't want to go there either.
Will you please
hide this for me?
Please? Please?
All right.
What are you doing in here?
There's a man downstairs
from the Department of Charity
and Corrections.
He says it's about the ball.
Every year, they kick up a fit
about paying the quartet.
They're tighter than a tick.
And close the door behind you.
No sitting on the ground.
Let's go.
What will we do with them all?
Once we haul 'em all
across the field,
Grady makes us
haul 'em all back again.
Mind where you're walking.
Hey, hey, you're okay.
You're okay.
Go straight to your room.
And hide this in your mattress.
Shh. Shh.
You are only to hold it at
night, when everyone's asleep.
Hide it! Hide it!
Thank you.
Do you understand, Lottie?
Thank you.
You're saying you stole this
from Matron Grady's office?
It's mine. It must have been
on my person when I arrived.
The nurses confiscate
all your personal belongings.
You should see what's locked up
in Grady's desk!
"The cat sat on the king"?
It's gibberish,
a visual representation
of your confused state of mind
when you arrived.
Look at this.
"Damaris is a 60 year-old woman
from Gowanus, Brooklyn,
sent to asylum
simply for being destitute."
That's not gibberish.
No, it's not,
which would suggest...
"Johari doesn't speak
any English.
"A nurse choked her for crying,
then dragged her to the closet,
where her terrified cries
hushed into smothered ones."
Why would I write that?
Clearly, you wrote this
after your treatment.
No, I remember everything
after my treatment.
And I've never seen
this journal.
I arrived the same day
you received your treatment.
Although I doubt
you remember meeting me.
Perhaps you used this notebook
as a way to organize
the world around you,
to reconstruct your mind.
I think it's actually quite
a brilliant bit of therapy,
writing in a journal.
This isn't her idea!
She doesn't allow us paper
or anything to write with!
Aren't you going to at least
talk to her about it?
And how would I do that
without impugning you?
You trespassed and stole...
You could tell her
that you took it.
Nellie, for your own good,
I won't lie for you.
We're making progress.
Try to follow the rules
and focus on your recovery.
For all her gruffness,
we must assume
that Matron Grady has your
best interest at heart,
even if, at times,
her bedside manner
can be off-putting.
How about I keep that for you
here, in my office?
You can use it whenever you like
while you're with me.
I think it's time for you
to go back.
Today, many of you were exposed
to over-stimulation.
It was not my intention.
Henceforth, there will be
no more rocking,
of any kind, at any time.
Each of you will maintain
a restful composure
until you are deemed by the
doctors of this institution
to have reaped the benefits
of undistracted reflection.
Give it to me! Give it back!
It's mine!
Let it go.
Let it go. It's mine.
Hollister, let it go.
Where did you get this?
I don't know. I don't know.
Oh, well, that's quite curious
because, this afternoon,
I found my office door open.
And the contents of my desk
were out of order.
Does that ring a bell, dear?
No? No, no, ma'am.
Thousand pities. Nurse Grupe?
Something seems to have happened
to Hollister's memory.
The Retreat, ma'am?
Yes, I think so.
I think that would be good.
It would help restore
her powers of recall.
Oh. How now, Brown cow?
Did you want to
stick your oar in?
I took the blanket.
I went into your office.
I found it.
And I brought it to Lottie,
to comfort her.
Did it ever occur to you, Brown,
that, sometimes, the smallest
things in our possession
are too painful for us to bear?
I would rather see her
carrying around a piano
than something so freighted with
so much anguish as this blanket.
You have made this
part of her illness.
And it will have to
be destroyed.
No! Please, no! It's mine!
No, no, it's not
your fault, love.
This is what happens
when we play doctor.
And Brown fancies herself
a doctor. Don't you, Brown?
And I know which one.
Indeed, I think we all do.
Oh, I was hoping this
would cure itself, Brown.
I was really hoping.
What are you talking about?
You have the quick-blood
in your veins.
And it is drawing you into
a lustful attachment
with Dr. Josiah.
You are a very attractive
young woman.
And he is a very attractive
young man.
But he's someone else's
property, Brown.
Yes, he has a wife.
And I can't let you
to go into his drawers
the way you went into mine.
Have you ever seen a sow
in heat?
How it rubs itself
against the gate
to relieve the vicious tingling?
That is what this stems from.
I understand.
But this is not
a hog farm anymore.
You need relief
of a more permanent nature.
Fenton, Grupe, you're with me.
You let me, go!
I will tell the doctor!
Oh, I rather doubt that.
Ladies, good night.
No! No!
No! No! No!
What are you doing to me?
You won't want the gentlemen
here for this.
But I'll keep them if I have to.
Don't you dare!
Then you may take your ease
in the hall.
Whatever this hideous ritual is,
I do not give my consent!
I think we are too hasty
letting go of
the time-honoured traditions,
all this talking of
cooing and begging people
to behave themselves,
for years on end.
And it's so much more efficient
to just do
a quick snap procedure
and be done with it.
This is simply a remedy
for the quick-blood.
It will drain all
the lust out of you.
What are they doing to her?
There you are.
Soon, you'll be right as rain.
There, there.
You don't know real distress is.
When I was a young girl,
I was sent to a laundry.
They called it a laundry.
It was a fever hole.
My mum had died.
My pa, I never knew.
I was a lost girl,
just like you.
But I was only five.
Oh, and I was a
pretty little thing.
You know what the priests do
with a pretty little things?
A fat lot worse than what I did
to you, believe you me.
And I came through it.
And you will too.
And you know how?
Fenton will see you back.
Are you all right?
Come on.
It wasn't right,
what she did to you,
respectfully speaking.
They say there's more money
in New York City
than there's ever been anywhere
else in the whole world.
But how can that be?
Most of us don't even have
a pot to piddle in.
All right, come on.
I know my conversation
isn't the most scintillating.
But I thought you'd at least
come to get your shoes loosened.
I wasn't feeling up to it today.
Are you feeling poorly?
No, I'm fine.
You'd tell me if something
were amiss, wouldn't you?
You can tell me anything.
You know that.
You needn't ever be embarrassed.
I didn't sleep well last night.
That's all.
I was anxious
to meet with you today
because my research
has borne some fruit.
I've read about a case in France
where a drowning victim
was revived,
only to have no memory
of who she was
or what had happened to her.
Oxygen deprivation.
Perhaps there was an accident,
something that happened to you,
something on or near water.
Does that mean anything to you?
I have to go.
Nellie, what is it?
Is it Matron Grady again?
Please, I insist you tell me.
No, everything's fine.
I simply want to
follow the rules
and focus on my recovery,
as you said.
Excuse me.
The star, the planet, the ego.
There are people out there
who have no voice.
Who are you?
Have you forgot yourself again?
It's time for supper.
Do you go home to visit
your husband every night?
This is home.
I live on the island. We all do.
The ferry ride
back and forth alone
would take more than
the pittance we're paid.
And that's the only way
off this island.
So, you're as much a prisoner
as we are.
Me brother comes and visits me.
He's a fisherman. He has
his own boat and everything.
You best get going.
You don't want Matron Grady
catching you missing. Come on.
He has his own
boat and everything.
And that's the only way
off this island.
"Come down to Kew in lilac time.
'Tis not so far from London."
"Come down to
Kew in lilac time."
"'Tis not so far from London."
"And we will wander
hand in hand,
in love,
in nature's wonderland."
"And we will wander
hand in hand,
in love,
in nature's wonderland."
Bless, oh, Lord,
this food to thy use,
and us to thy service.
Lottie, Lottie.
They said no rocking.
She's going to get the whip.
Eat your food. And stop that
moving around.
Stop it!
There's a ball happening
this week. Won't that be nice?
Lottie, you have to eat
or Matron Grady is going to
send you to the Retreat.
They're going to
send her to the Retreat
if she keeps up that rocking.
Stop that rocking right now.
Be still. Think of your baby.
Think of little Georgie.
Lottie, please.
I said stop that rocking!
Everyone, hold hands!
Holds hands and rock! Rock!
Rock! They can't get us all!
Stop that rocking!
Keep rocking!
Stop it!
Stop that rocking this instant
or you'll be sent
to the retreat!
Retreat! Retreat!
Retreat! Retreat!
Once again, Grupe,
you have overplayed your hand.
What are you waiting for?
Send us all to the retreat!
Come on!
Retreat! Retreat!
Lice, I'm afraid
there's been an outbreak.
Yes, when I think about
that senseless performance in
the cafeteria, the undulating,
it makes sense.
You are all struggling with
an infestation of these vermin.
Now I know you all desire
a turn in the Retreat,
which you have requested
so vociferously.
But that's simply
not going to possible.
This hall will be quarantined
until we are rid
of this infestation.
Nurse Grupe, will you examine
Hollister, please?
Yes. I can see them,
full of nits, this one.
Show us. Show us one louse.
Do you know what I hear?
I hear a child asking
their mother
if there's flour in the cookie.
There's flour in the cookie.
There's lice in her hair.
You'll just have to
take my word for it.
Because, like a child,
you have no other choice.
We're going to have to shear
the lot of you.
Can't be helped. Must be done.
I can't risk
this spreading further.
And Brown, since you have proved
to be such an effective leader,
you can go first.
Don't touch me!
I don't care. I don't
have to look at it.
Go ahead.
What the devil is going on here?
Lice, sir. You'll want to
keep a safe distance.
I wasn't informed of this.
Certainly not.
It it not the policy
of this institution
to involve doctors
in the patients' hygiene.
Are we to have
this conversation again?
I told you,
everything you do to the body
is related to my treatment
of the mind, including hygiene.
Lice is a very serious
affliction, sir.
The agitation, the beastly
itching, the bedding...
And your solution
is to denude these women?
Deprive them of their
last shred of femininity?
Their femininity, sir,
is a secondary concern
to their safety and wellbeing.
Their femininity
is a cornerstone
of their wellbeing, madam.
The entire point
of this institution
is to build these women back up,
the ones that can be,
not shear them like sheep.
My God, think if I hadn't
appeared when I did.
She would have lost...
All these women would have lost
the one vanity
afforded them here.
There's not a single mirror
on this island, sir.
The Department of Corrections
and Charity forbids it.
So, I'm just wondering
who reaps the benefits
of their feminine appearance?
Not the patients themselves,
certainly not the staff.
We're indifferent
as to the way they look.
I am, at least.
Aren't you?
Of course. Don't be absurd.
Then why, sir,
do you care if she's bald?
Just let her do it.
That's how my mother treated
lice on the farm.
It's rubbed into the scalp.
The hair is soaked in it.
It's much easier than shearing,
with less chance of injury,
and equally efficacious.
I think I would rather have...
Kerosene, if that's what
the doctor orders,
that's what we will do.
You can all thank Brown
and her doctor
for saving your scalps today.
I just don't know how long
we'll have to keep you away
from the flames after this.
I suppose double baths
will be in order.
And I'd give those lamps
a wide berth.
You like that? Here's more.
That's enough now, Grupe.
Finish up.
Hey, get back here!
Patients away now!
Patients away!
Lottie, Lottie...
Give her the pipe! Lottie?
I always do what you say.
And I'm tired of it.
"Get in the tub.
Eat the mush. Take the blanket."
This is all your fault!
Give me my pipe.
And I'll give you back
your baby's blanket.
I can have it back?
But first,
you must be a good girl
and you must give me
back my pipe.
You can't speak to me like that.
I'm from a first family.
I'm a Hollister.
And we rule this city.
Can't you see who I am?
I am the queen of New York!
No, wait!
Why aren't you helping her?
It's kinder to let her die.
No! No! No!
That's it. Pack it in.
I just wanted to help.
It wasn't your fault.
If the blame must be
laid at anyone's feet,
it should be mine.
I have to get out of here.
Nellie, I want to be
very clear about something
that was implied yesterday.
My feelings for you, while of
the strongest personal regard,
should in no way be confused
with the feelings I have for,
say, my wife, whom I love
above all others.
Of course.
If I've somehow given you
the wrong impression...
No, no, it's Matron Grady.
She could see evil
in the crotch of a tree.
You see, there's that too.
I can't allow you
to draw me into
your ambition
against Matron Grady.
If you insist
on acting out against her,
I shall have to be very clear
whose side I'm on,
for your own good.
What does that mean?
I can no longer talk to you
like a normal person?
Nellie, you're the only
normal person I can talk to
on this blasted island.
If not for you, I think I might
end up a patient here myself.
I think you'd have to undergo
quite a transformation
for that to happen.
I was thinking yesterday
I can tell the time of day
by the quality of light
on your hair.
What do you mean?
In the mornings, it takes on
an almost rosy cast.
At midday, it's a deep chestnut.
Now, in the late afternoon,
it looks like honeyed amber.
I have to go.
I'm needed in the scullery.
Till tomorrow then.
I have to get off this island,
You know I don't belong here.
The only way off is the ferry.
And there's always a guard.
Your brother,
you said he has a boat.
I'm famous. Imagine how famous
you'd be if you helped me.
You'd tell the papers?
Every one.
Fenton! Brown!
There's work to be done.
Off you go.
Dr. Ellis Josiah.
Bartholomew Driscoll.
Thank you for seeing me.
Class of '79. You a Harvard man?
No, no, no, I knew a fellow
who went there with you.
I studied in London.
In any case,
I have the advantage,
as everyone knows
who the Driscolls are.
Don't hold it against me.
I've found being a Driscoll as
much predicament as privilege.
A predicament that many of us
would happily withstand.
My office is right this way.
What caused me to wire you,
when I saw the piece in the
paper about your mystery girl,
was the obvious connection
to the name.
The girl you're missing
is also named "Nellie Brown"?
"Nellie Bly" actually.
But you can see the similarity.
And my Nellie went missing
around the same time that
your mystery girl showed up.
I confess the chances
this is the same girl...
There must be several hundred
Nellies in Five Points alone.
She must mean quite a lot
to you.
She is, without a doubt,
the love of my life.
Can you describe her?
Describe Nellie?
I wouldn't know where to begin.
Soft brown eyes,
dark hair, self-educated,
loves Greek mythology.
She had a rough start.
Her father died,
left her destitute,
that sort of thing.
But she worked hard.
She made something of herself.
She's curious, articulate,
driven to help those
less fortunate than she.
Uh, tell me, Mr. Driscoll...
May I call you Bartholomew?
Only my grandmother does.
My friends call me Bat.
Thank you.
I'm just curious.
What would lead you
to think a girl like that
would have wound up here?
She doesn't seem
disturbed in the least
or forgetful of herself.
I confess, I'm not hopeful.
But perhaps the test
is for me to see
your mystery girl,
and then I'll be on my way.
Right. Yes.
Well, it, uh... Hmm.
it looks like
she's already moved on.
Her family claimed her,
and she was discharged
just yesterday.
Well, that's rotten luck for me.
I've only recently been
posted here.
Otherwise, I would've known
in advance of your coming
and saved you a trip.
I'm a terrible investigator.
And the deuce of it is,
Nellie, my Nellie,
would have been the
perfect person for the job.
I don't take your meaning.
She's a writer.
A reporter, actually.
If she had been on the story,
no doubt she would have
found herself already.
Thank you for your time.
Wait just a moment.
I just, uh,
wanted to say good luck to you.
In your search.
Well, I'll need it.
I can find my way back.
Bat, it's beautiful.
Bat, Bat!
Where are you going? Stop her!
Get her, get her!
Bat? No.
Get her back.
Bat. Bat!
It's his name. I saw him.
This would be
the gentleman you saw
leaving the island yesterday?
Yes, yes. Bat is his name.
He's the man that I know
I had an attachment to.
Was he here looking for me?
I mean,
if he was looking for you,
don't you think I would have
sent for you at once?
But I remember him.
I remember being with him.
Nellie, I hesitate
to even tell you this,
but the simple truth is that
the man
that you saw leaving the island
yesterday came to see me
about a mutual friend,
a fellow he went to school with,
who happens to be in need
of some assistance.
Well, what is his name?
I'm afraid that's all
I'm at liberty to say.
What is his name?
Nellie, there is no Perseus
coming to rescue you.
You must free yourself,
with my help.
Why won't you tell me his name?
I don't care for your tone,
and I must ask you
to drop the subject.
I do not wish to have
my private affairs
drafted into our discussions.
Do you understand?
While it's not uncommon
for patients to develop
feelings of affection
toward their doctor,
I can't allow you to insinuate
yourself into my personal life.
I have no desire to insinuate
myself into anything.
Perhaps not consciously.
But maybe you're embarrassed
by your feelings for me
and have therefore unconsciously
transferred those feelings
onto my friend.
I have no such feelings for you.
Are you saying
you've never had a shameful
thought about me?
That bird has never
flown overhead, not once?
I want my notebook back.
Your notebook? Yes.
I was thinking clearly
when I arrived at Blackwell's.
That notebook is evidence
of that.
Yes, I know it is.
And if I was thinking clearly
before my treatment...
Which you were not...
Then it stands to reason that
the treatment itself
is the cause of memory loss.
What was my treatment? Stop!
You're descending into paranoia.
You must stop thinking
about the past
and focus on what is good
and pleasant
in your immediate surroundings.
There is nothing good
or pleasant
in my immediate surroundings.
Lila and Fenton
are helping the patients dress.
I'll settle the quartet
as soon as they arrive.
Very good, Grupe.
Will you be coming to the ball
tonight, ma'am?
Someone should wear
Hollister's clothes.
She should be represented.
Are you alright?
That will be all, Grupe.
May I have this dance?
You're worried Matron Grady
won't approve?
Uh, I would just rather not.
You're allowed a few moments
of pleasure, Nellie.
In fact, I insist upon it.
Doctor's orders.
I've been looking forward
to tonight.
What it would feel like
to hold you.
Dr. Josiah?
Matron Grady would like
a word with you.
I shall return to claim
the rest of my dance.
Your brother is waiting for us
at the dock on the other side
of the island, okay?
Pretend like
you have to use the loo.
Come on.
Leaving so soon?
Just a quick wee.
Back in a wink.
You wanted to see me,
Matron Grady?
Who told you that?
It was Nurse Fenton.
I have seen you, Dr. Josiah.
I have seen you.
That's one and that's all.
15 all told.
Right. Let's go. Hurry.
This way.
What's going to happen to you
when you go back without me?
I'm not going back.
I'm coming with you.
Hurry. Come on!
Hurry. He won't wait for long.
We're nearly there.
Where's the boat?
Are we too late?
You got to understand,
I got to be smart.
I can't lose this job.
You'll be all right.
You're still famous.
I'm sorry.
She's here! I've got her.
Well done, Fenton.
Now, go find our
young doctor and tell him that
his lovebird has flown the nest.
Ah, you're a tender sprig,
That city
would have chewed you up
and spit you out,
right back on this shore.
You really should be
thanking me.
Brown attempted to escape
through the east gate.
Is this truth?
Please. I cannot stay here.
Matron Grady,
you can trust her with me.
I don't think so, doctor.
As your superior
in this institution,
you will obey me, or mark my...
Oh, I have marked you
since the first moment
you got here.
I knew that you'd find yourself
a pretty little thing.
I just didn't think
it would be this fast.
And now you've given
this poor girl no choice
but to attempt
to escape your lechery.
I have done nothing untoward.
That's not the first lie
you've told since you arrived,
is it, doctor?
Nor will it be the last,
if I allow this to go on
without a formal investigation.
What is she talking about?
I looked into your transfer
from Brookhaven,
and I know, Dr. Josiah,
that you were
prematurely discharged
from that prestigious
London institution,
and I know why.
This is not the first time
that you have taken
a very special interest
in one of your patients,
is it, Dr. Josiah?
What else did you lie about?
Do you see what happens
when we try to make them
our dance partners?
When we loosen their shoes
with our secret key?
He was here for me, wasn't he?
He was.
Admit it!
Ah, there's always a remedy.
A little corrective treatment
to set Brown back on
the right path,
and all will be as it was
before you inserted yourself.
From here on out, I will be
in charge of Brown's care.
No, please.
There was a man
who came to see me.
He came to find me.
He knows who I am.
Please, tell her!
We can erase
this unpleasant incident
and you can keep your job here
at this institution.
All you need do, doctor,
is consign her to me.
Some say it's mightier
than the sword.
TheSun, theStar, thePlanet.
I've tried every newspaper
in New York.
I don't want to end up writing
about rainbow sandwiches
because I'm a woman.
There are people out there
who have no voice.
I want to write for them.
The only place left to try is
but Pulitzer is more interested
in stunts than stories.
The right idea
will present itself.
Mr. Pulitzer, sir, I need to
speak to you for a moment.
I have a story
that is guaranteed
to increase your circulation
from 15,000 to 150,000 readers.
The World.
A letter for you, Mr. Driscoll.
Thank you, Mills.
"Dear Bat",
"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you
the truth before,
"but I'm on a secret assignment
for Pulitzer's paper,
"I've asked his office
to deliver this to you
so you wouldn't worry
and couldn't try to stop me."
I must speak with you, sir,
about a woman in your employ
named Nellie Bly.
So many people in my employ.
Contact my office.
I know you've sponsored her
to go after some story
at her own peril.
Whomever I may or may
not have sponsored
is a confidential matter.
Do you know who I am, sir?
Of course I know who you are.
I read my own society pages.
I have a classmate from Harvard,
name of William Randolph Hearst.
He has a newspaper
in competition with
your paper, the World,
and he'll be running a story
about what you've done
with Nellie
unless you want to
tell me first.
It has been reported on
from the outside, sir,
but no one, man, woman or child,
has ever been allowed inside
and come back out to tell of it.
What kind
of treatment do they give you?
It was Miss Grady
who administered the treatment
that brought you back
to reality.
My memory is destroyed
from that treatment.
A little corrective treatment.
What is my treatment?
Joseph Pulitzer.
Who are you?
My name is Nellie Brown.
I'm Nellie Brown. I told you.
There are two things I hate
most in the world:
Liars and cheats.
Please! My name is Nellie Bly!
Time to empty your memory box.
You didn't give me my treatment
because I was insane;
You gave it to me
because I wasn't.
I don't know about that.
You'd have to be insane
to get yourself
purposely committed
to a lunatic asylum.
You said no one is allowed in?
No sane person. How?
"I'll pretend I'm going
on a trip.
"Then I'll put on shabby clothes
"and get a room
at a boarding house
"under the name Nellie Brown.
"I'll disguise my notebook
with phrases fromAn Adult Mind,
"and I'll smuggle it into
the asylum
"so I can faithfully chronicle
life inside those walls.
"I'll seek out a public place
and pretend to be insane.
"The police will send me
to Bellevue for evaluation.
"Then after that,
it's just a short ferry ride
to Blackwell's Island."
I'm a journalist.
I was writing a story.
Are you? Well, I'm no Pulitzer,
but from what I understand
a journalist does research,
weeks, months of it.
Conducts interviews,
gets all the facts
and keeps herself
out of the mix.
What you did, my dear,
was you took a shortcut
through the woods
and you met the wolf.
These women deserve
to have their stories told.
What they've had to suffer
at your hands.
They suffered?
The patients in my hands
are free of disease.
They are clean.
They are fed.
They are continent.
Do you know what they
were doing, most of them,
when they stepped off
that ferry?
Messing themselves
and playing in it.
Biting each other
and scratching off their faces
and plucking out
their eyelashes.
But you don't see that,
because I straighten them out
with just three staff nurses.
And I shake them
into order, the ones
that can be shaken.
And the ones that cannot,
I send them to the retreat
until they make the grade.
And that, my dear,
is how you run an asylum.
Who's in charge here?
Your methods
are disgusting and barbaric.
These women are not insane.
They have been driven mad
by your treatments.
Beatings and drownings
and leeches.
You, sir!
I demand to see the patient
known as Nellie Brown.
I'm sorry, sir.
I told the gentlemen she's...
I beg you to understand, sir,
what will happen to
this institution
and all the luckless grubs
that toil in it,
including you,
if Nellie is not brought to me
unharmed, before you are
a minute older.
I watched a woman
burn to death in front of me!
And I expect that is
what you will write about?
Yes! That is exactly
what I will write about.
If you remember.
My name is Nellie Bly.
I am a journalist
from the World.
I work for Joseph Pulitzer.
My name is Nellie Bly.
I am a journalist.
My name is Nellie Bly!
I work for Joseph Pulitzer.
My name is Nellie Bly.
She's in the basement
of the retreat.
I will show you the way.
What are you doing to me? Wait.
Simply ensuring
that the good work
of this asylum will continue
unhindered by you, Nellie Bly.
Dunk her.
Bye-bye, Nellie Bly.
Where is Nellie Brown?
Where is she?
Well, I expect she's
in her bed, in the dormitory.
Dear God.
Raise the box. Now!
Raise the box!
Nellie, Nellie, Nellie!
You're safe.
I won't forget any of you.
And I will tell our story
to anyone who will listen.
Give 'em hell, Nellie.
I guess you won't
tell them about me.
Of course I will.
And by the way,
it isn't so hard
to become famous.
You just have to forget
who you are.
Thank you.
Dr. Josiah told me
to give you this.
Thank you.
I'm sorry for what
was done to you.
You were a child
in need of kindness.
But that does not excuse
what you have done
to these women.
I suppose you'll have to
live with that.
You've got your notes?
But I won't need them.
I'll never forget these women
and the eternity I spent here.
Nellie, you came here
just 10 days ago.
New York Police Department.
Open up.
Police! Open the door.
Don't make this difficult.
Open up.
Dr. Josiah? It's the police.
Open up.