In Therapy [Bajo terapia] — Spanish Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

At the behest of their therapist, three couples meet at an unusual venue away from the therapist’s clinic.  There they discover that their therapist won’t be joining them but has instead left a series of envelopes with instructions for them to undertake a group-therapy exercise in which they will help one another to solve their problems.  There is some initial reluctance to engage, especially as the couples are strangers to one another and seem to have nothing in common.  Daniel (Fele Martínez) and Laura (Alexandra Jiménez) have been married for twenty years and are at odds over their teenage son.  Roberto (Juan Carlos Vellido), a strong-minded traditionalist, is married to subservient and fragile Marta (Malena Alterio), whom he keeps protectively at home and watches over.  Esteban (Antonio Pagudo) and Carla (Eva Ugarte) have been together for three years, but she has resisted moving in together.

After all agree to begin the exercise with the stipulation that they needn’t continue if they don’t want, they open the first envelope to reveal the therapist’s initial instructions, which are specific to one of the couples.  The other couples are supposed to help find a solution to this couple’s stated problem, but things go awry when that emerges as merely the skin on the hot milk.  In fact, with the opening of each envelope and responses to the instructions therein, dark truths about each of the couples leak out, leading to heightened tensions and finally to cracks leading to surprising solutions.

Every one of the six actors in this film gives an impeccably believable performance of such nuanced subtlety that they challenge viewers to either question or confirm their own beliefs about relationships, parenting, sex, infidelity, loyalty, truthfulness, ownership, compromise, and each person’s inherent rights.

The movie is mostly set in a visually interesting venue, a rich yet impersonal space that is possibly a shared art studio or gallery.  Whilst it contains comfortable furniture here and there, none of it lends itself to relaxed comfort or engenders a friendly atmosphere, and this adds to the edginess that exists between the couples from the start.

Taking an unusual approach to bringing to light and dealing with what can seem intractable problems, In Therapy is a creative, compelling, and thought-provoking watch from beginning to end.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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