The Patient: Carell, Gleeson’s gripping turns deserve to find a captive audience
EXAM: Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson make an effective couple in Disney+’s latest thriller.
Essentially two-handed, The Patient (which begins airing on the worldwide service August 30) unfolds the story of therapist Alan Strauss (Carell) and the young man originally known as Gene (Gleeson), over the course of 10 one-hour halftime episodes.
However, after a few months, their sessions turned out to be rather frustrating – and fruitless – for both parties.
“It doesn’t work like in your book,” hisses Gene, as he repeats his concerns that his father beat him as a child and is currently unhappy, gets angry and n don’t have a good social life.
“You have to tell me things – be open, truthful,” is Strauss’ exasperated response.
Steve Carell’s therapist finds himself in a delicate situation in The Patient.
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Now, however, he has woken up to strange surroundings and – more unsettlingly – chained to a bed via an ankle bracelet. After screaming for help with no response, he inspects the room and quickly realizes it’s clearly been set up for a longtime guest.
It is a little later that his host reveals himself. “I’m so sorry, I know it sucks,” Gene mutters. “It’s not as bad as it looks – I need your help. I have no more options. My name is actually Sam, and I have much bigger problems than the rest of your patients – I have a compulsion to kill people. I’ve read all the books I want to quit and I’m trying so hard. I would like you to know what it’s like to be like that, it’s not like the Silence of the Lambs.
Further revealing that he is the man police previously named as the killer of John Doe for his penchant for taking his victim’s ID (“Do you want a watch? They still work – most of ‘between them,’ he asks his captive), Sam is unimpressed by Strauss’ initial lack of enthusiasm – or response.
“The silent treatment doesn’t seem to be very professional,” he berates.
This is the last straw for Strauss: “I am no longer your therapist, I am your prisoner. Successful therapy requires a safe environment. To discuss complicated emotions, no fear should hover over our sessions.
After some debate and a seemingly endless array of fancy takeaways, they finally reach a compromise. In exchange for exploring where his dire need comes from – and meeting it – Sam promises not to commit any acts of physical violence without telling Strauss. It doesn’t take long for Sam to become furious with their process, however, especially when there are people in his day job as a health inspector who have seriously pissed him off.
Created by the duo behind the brilliant, multi-award-winning period spy series The Americans – Joel Fields and Joseph Weisberg – The Patient works best as a Misery-style psychological thriller.
Playing to Carell’s strengths are moments of dark humor like Strauss’ inventiveness, but flawed attempts at escape inevitably fail, while Gleeson, virtually unrecognizable at first, is suitably enigmatic as the mysterious Sat.
There’s an episodic feel to the proceedings that doesn’t feel as organic as it should, but with two such thoughtful and impressive performances, it’s hard to resist wanting to find out how it will all work out.
The Patient begins streaming on Disney+ the evening of August 30.