A tense psychological thriller, The Patient confronts a psychiatrist on Disney+ with the serial killer who sequesters him.
What is The Patient? Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) wakes up in the basement of an unfamiliar house, chained to a bed. A brilliant psychiatrist, he was kidnapped by one of his patients, Sam (Domhnall Gleeson), a young man who has been consulting him for some time. However, he has decided to sequester him in order to push the therapy further and he reveals to him above all what he did not tell him during their sessions: Sam is a serial killer. And he wants to stop, with the help of the psychiatrist. Trapped and hopeless, Strauss is forced to accept this strange therapy if he wants to save his life.
A man wakes up, confused and groggy, chained to a bed in a place he doesn’t know. So begins The Patient, mini-series available on Disney+. During these ten episodes, Joel Fields and Joseph Weisberg (creator of The Americans) lock us up with Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson in a harrowing psychological thriller, an unhealthy camera between a psychiatrist and the patient who sequesters him.
On the one hand, Alan Strauss: an eminent psychiatrist, he saw all sorts of patients pass through his office, including Sam Fortner. This young man, visibly ill at ease, speaks only in banalities and Strauss then advises him to put an end to the therapy, or to start confiding. It is this option that Sam will choose… by kidnapping the psychiatrist and keeping him chained in the basement of his house. He then reveals the truth to her: he is a serial killer, he wants to stop but cannot control his impulses. Strauss protests in vain, Sam is intractable: intensive sessions of analysis, here is the solution. Then begins a particular therapy: while Sam tries to control himself so as not to kill his next victim, Strauss pushes him to talk about his childhood traumas to understand what made him a serial killer. But, locked up and fearing for his life, the psychiatrist also wonders about his own story and about himself.
It’s a crossover between In Therapy and Misery, dexter in Dr. Melfi’s office. The idea of The Patient is simple, intriguing and effective: analysis sessions between a psychiatrist and a serial killer. Interviews that could be classic – except that here, everything is exacerbated. On the one hand, because “the patient” of the title is a psychopathic assassin with a complex psyche; on the other hand, because almost everything takes place behind closed doors between the two protagonists; finally because it is clear from the beginning that the life of the psychiatrist depends on the failure or the success of his work.
The patient is carried by suspense and tension. At just 30 minutes in length, the episodes have just the right amount of space to turn up the heat, turn things around in subtle progression, and end in a masterful cliffhanger that leaves you on edge. And if the plot exudes angst and suspense every minute, the series is also surprising in the way that the darkest drama meets at times a destabilizing black humor or the most bittersweet emotion.
Everything rests on the two main actors, Domhnall Gleeson and Steve Carell. The first brilliantly interprets Sam, a character all the stronger for pushing the limits of empathy in the viewer. He is a violent serial killer, fully aware of his actions, but who knows that something is wrong with him, and who wants to stop. And as we understand the origin of his behavior (the violence he suffered, his relationship with his mother…), we are more and more uncomfortable. This calm, calm-voiced guy sits down in an armchair to talk about his broken childhood, his never-healed wounds… then transforms before our eyes into an icy monster, capable of the worst brutality when he is in the grip of his impulses.
As for Carell, he is terrific in the role of Alan Strauss. Terrified but showing an impressive self-control, he knows that his survival depends on the outcome of the therapy. But psychoanalysis is also his only weapon against Sam. Since he has no means of physically dominating him, all he has left to do is talk to convince him – to stop killing, to save his life, to release him or surrender to the authorities. Will his salvation depend on the success of the analysis, or on how he can use it to manipulate his patient? As the tension mounts, Alan also reveals himself to us and to himself: his family life is chaotic, his relationship with his son Ezra (Andrew Leeds) is completely dysfunctional, he lives in the memory of times gone by. with his wife Beth (Laura Niemi) who died of cancer, he questions the practice of his Jewish religion, the history of his people and the place of the Shoah in his unconscious.
Symptomatically, however, the series loses its sharpness and bite when it leaves behind closed doors, leaves the room where the psychiatrist is sequestered to show us Sam at work, for example. Same thing when other characters appear. With the exception of Sam’s mother who plays a defining role, the presence of the other protagonists somewhat weakens the tone of the series, which never works better than in the dramatic face-to-face.
Despite a few scenes slightly below and some lengths, The Patient is a success: intense and disturbing, carried by the formidable duo Steve Carell / Domhnall Gleeson, with episodes taking advantage of their brevity, it builds a breathtaking plot . And it traps you from the first minutes to never let you go. Until a devastating outcome, from which we do not come out completely unscathed.
10 episodes of around 30′.