Monday, July 7, 2014

Film review: Jimmy P.

Actor Benicio del Toro is a personal favorite of mine, since we once lived in the same building in LA, and riding the elevator together one day I got to tell him how he made me cry at the end of Traffic. He plays a Blackfeet Indian in the new film Jimmy P., and he darn near made me cry again.

The film is based on a 1951 book, Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, by George Devereux, an ethnologist and Freudian psychoanalyst. Played by French actor Mathieu Almaric, Devereux comes to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, to diagnosis del Toro’s Jimmy Picard, who is suffering from brain injury-related trauma following service in Europe during World War II.

When Jimmy reveals that at times he is unable to distinguish between dreams and reality, Devereux determines that the condition is not a disorder but a form of psychic healing to be found in native populations. With Devereux as a “spirit guide,” using the techniques of Freudian analysis, the two study Jimmy’s dreams and memories to learn what is causing his headaches and blackouts.

On the rez
The film’s portrayal of their relationship relies little on the usual movie conventions about therapists and patients. Those looking for high-pitched docudrama will not find scenes of extreme emotional distress, crisis, or breakthroughs, nor the edgy coldness at the heart of the HBO series In Treatment. Instead, the progress toward mental equilibrium comes in small increments, and what interests us is the warmth of the trusting friendship that grows between the two men.

Anyone familiar with the progress of actual therapy will recognize the tentative discovery of elusive clues that suggest but may never conclusively reveal the mysteries underlying dysfunction. Finally, a time simply comes when the patient marshals resources hopefully strengthened and repaired to resume a life interrupted, which is how this film ends. The realism of the film’s portrayal of that process makes for an intelligent and satisfying human story to ponder long afterward. Here’s the official trailer:

Wrapping up. Directed by French film director Arnaud Desplechin, Jimmy P. has been playing the festival circuit since 2013. But, alas, to borrow a phrase from LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan, it may never come to a theater near you. It is, however, currently available on DVD at Netflix and for purchase at amazon and Barnes&Noble. For more Overlooked movies and TV, click over to Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

Photo credits:

Further reading:

Coming up: Caroline Lockhart, The Lady Doc (1912)


  1. Haven't seen Traffic or this one. Looks like a dark movie and a long road to recovery for Jimmy. I've read Freud's book on psychoanalysis and he comes up with things that a normal person wouldn't think of as being the cause for all his troubles. I think I'll have to sign on to YouTube and give it a watch.

  2. Looks interesting, think I will give it a try.

  3. Indeed, Ron, what you have pasted in there isn't a trailer, but the whole film. Thanks...this does sound intriguing...

    1. Ah, I was too quick (and too thick) to realize this was one of YT's new paid offers...

    2. It started out just as a link to the trailer. I will be more careful with YT after this.