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In Treatment: Season 1 - Week 1 (Review)

Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HBO’S latest awards-laden drama In Treatment finally made its UK debut on Sky Arts on Monday, October 5 (2009) and immediately impressed.

Produced and developed by Rodrigo Garcia, In Treatment‘s format, script and opening theme are based, often word for word, on Hagai Levi’s successful Israeli series BeTipul, which was similarly critically-acclaimed.

It follows 53-year-old psychotherapist Dr Paul Weston (played by Gabriel Byrne) and his weekly sessions with patients, from Melissa George’s unhinged Laura every Monday to Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles’ bickering couple on Thursday. On Friday, he takes it upon himself to see his own psychotherapist, in the form of Dianne Wiest’s Gina (his mentor).

Each episode lasts for an uninterrupted half an hour and takes place solely within the confines of the psychotherapist’s office. As such, it retains a sense of the theatrical – small, intimate and, in the hands of such expert actors, utterly gripping.

Admittedly, there’s a courting period to be contended with. We have yet to properly get to know any of the characters, but enough seeds were sewn to make this unmissable.

Byrne’s Dr Weston is a good listener, an intelligent thinker and a man with issues of his own that are beginning to manifest themselves in intriguing ways. Is his wife having an affair? Has he had enough of other people’s problems? Is he on the verge of his own breakdown in spite of the apparently calm outward demeanour?

Such questions were raised in his own session with Gina, who gleefully and provocatively played devil’s advocate to Paul’s concerns and repeatedly irritated him… to the point at which he even questioned his reasons for seeking her counsel again after so long.

But it makes the prospect of Paul’s Friday sessions (In Treatment lasts for nine weeks), all the more intriguing.

Of his own patients, all are intriguing in their own way – but some more than others.

Melissa George’s anesthesiologist, who is in love with Paul, is probably the least gripping at the moment… but expertly conveyed by George in a role that realises her potential and edginess as an actress.

Far more riveting was Blair Underwood’s traumatized fighter pilot, Alex, who was responsible for leading an Iraqi bombing mission that led to the death of 16 school-children.

Underwood proved a real enigma. He denied feeling affected by the tragedy, insisting he’d been following orders and slept well at night. But a near-death experience shortly afterwards suggested more to his outward bravado, while his decision to return to Iraq to visit the bomb site despite the fact there is now a price on his head seemed like folly and an apparent suicide mission.

Paul struggled to cope with Alex… constantly being shot down and toyed with. But the push and pull between them was terrific viewing and both actors were very much on form.

Mia Wasikowska’s suicidal teenage gymnast Sophie is similarly intriguing, particularly as the reasons behind her possible actions are far from clear. Are her parents pushing her too far? Is she pushing herself too far in competing with her peers? Or is her confidante and teacher abusing her?

Watching Paul carefully peel back Sophie’s protective layers was fascinating, and required a different approach to the more confrontational form of therapy he was forced to dispense with warring couple Amy and Jake (Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles) on Thursday’s session.

Caught in a row over whether Amy should have an abortion after five years of attempting to become pregnant, Paul lashed out over Jake’s aggressive approach and said he thought Amy should go through with her decision.

It was a volatile situation and a potentially explosive half an hour that eventually tipped Paul into feeling he needed to seek his own counsel.

But in each case, the acting was exemplary and the slow reveal nature of the screenwriting just as compelling.

In Treatment is, above all else, a showcase of talent – both in conception and execution. It’s disarmingly simple, yet a firm reminder that good quality drama just cannot be beaten.

The ensuing eight weeks of therapy promises to be utterly addictive.

In Treatment is on Sky Arts 1 (HD) every night (Monday to Friday) from 10pm, with an omnibus on Sunday to catch-up).

What did you think?