Shutter Island is one of those movies that I find truly unforgettable. Honestly, the only reason I wanted to watch it was because I knew Jill Larson had a small part, and had seen stills that creeped me out to the point that I had to see what kind of movie would have this lovely, elegant woman looking like a reject from every insane asylum imaginable.

It’s been quite a long time since I watched it and to this day I’m not entirely sure what sucked me in from the moment it started. I love the ocean, boats, islands, and gloomy foggy environs, add in the architecture of the main building on Shutter Island, the costumes, and then eventually Jill Larson’s balding headed black teethed scary grin…I ended up sucked in, sucked down, and thrown out of one of the most haunting stories I’ve ever experienced through movie magic.

Leonardo diCaprio was incredibly effective, as the lead. I bought into every word he said, every action he took, believed him without question (which surprised me in hindsight, since I’m often a few steps ahead of movie reveals–hazard of screenwriting), which is what ultimately made the whole thing so devastating. By the time I had started to understand what was going on, at least part of my brain, the part that had come to like his character so much, wouldn’t accept it.

But, wait…before it could be forced to accept that, there was another twist…I lagged behind the action on the screen trying to assimilate…then…wait, what?! You’d think that would be annoying, and it might have been in less skilled hands all around, but even though a part of me really hated the way that movie ended, the rest, the movie loving, script writing lover of complicated plots, complex characters, and the value of an awesome reveal reveled in it.

The very end was one of those moments that demonstrates just what the term “jawdropping” really means. I was still, and quiet, not exactly entertained, but more awed and…humbled in the face of being shown in such a stunning way just what it means to see a perfect storm of writing, directing, acting, cinematography, editing, every ing and ography I can think of come together to create a movie that could stun me like that.

And then the end titles came. I almost wanted to call them all back, beg for an epilogue that would make it all okay somehow. Then the gorgeous This Bitter Earth\On the Nature of Daylight begins to play, an almost raspy, almost angelic voice singing of loss and pain and hopelessness. I listened, enthralled, then hit rewind to hear it again. Absolutely perfect. I can’t imagine any other piece of music that could so movingly endcap such a movie watching experience. I went back through the end credits, found the name of the singer. Dinah Washington.

I bought the soundtrack. I listened and relived and very nearly cried again. I feel moved once more, as I write this, just from thinking about the movie, the music, and the way it took me to a place called Shutter Island for the duration of the time it played out on the screen. That reaction, to me, is the root of the power of the written word.

Whether it plays out on a big screen or inside our own heads as words flow from the pages of a book into our minds, the language of storytelling has the power to resonate, move, and awe us. That language is universal, and it gives us the gift of rich memories made up of places and people and experiences we only know because someone told us a story.

The hauntingly beautiful This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight by Dinah Washington and Max Richter

Shutter Island Official Trailer