If I am honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I chose to watch The Patient.
I appreciate the complexity of thrillers, and how they weave an ever-evolving narrative one tiny crumb at a time. You sit there, gripping the shoulders of your couch wondering what the heck is going to happen next.
The Patient did all of that, and much more.
The story follows a widowed therapist (Steve Carell) who finds himself a prisoner of a serial killer (Domhnall Gleeson), with a very odd request: help him curb his need to kill.
Its probably the first time that I’ve read a single line description of a production and found myself incredibly curious, wondering what kind of psychological journey this was going to be as a viewer.
Productions with small casts provide the perfect opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves into an individual character’s journey, while still being able to absorb and understand the overarching story.
Thrillers can painfully test your patience, especially as facts reveal themselves one nugget at a time. Initially, I was skeptical that this lengthy limited series may cross over that fine line between thrill and boredom, but that never happened.
Joel Fields and Joseph Weisberg (creators and writers of the show) have put together a production that keeps you engaged through each episode, minute by minute. Events are so excruciatingly detailed, character reactions captured perfectly frame-by-frame, and dialogue that just keeps you on your toes.
Every moment where I felt I knew what was going on, I was wrong. What I thought would happen, didn’t, and what I hoped we’d see was still being teased moment after moment.
There are some grey areas for me, as far as subject matter is concerned, which I will address later. However, the story has a solid foundation backed by powerful, engaging dialogue and a narrative that will keep you glued to your chair.
Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson.
I mean, I can just leave it at that and it would be enough.
Carell and Gleeson deliver some of the finest performances of their career in this production.
Carell, often pictured as that funny guy who has delivered some pretty dark and mind-blowing performances (Foxcatcher comes to mind immediately), delivers quite a complex and multi-dimensional character in The Patient.
He overlays emotions of grief and despair with his well-polished and patient character, mixing in dark humour and unabridged reactions to situations. Thrillers tend to follow the slow-burn reveal of a character, and this production is no different. As time progresses, you start to see and feel the character crack and you await with excitement on what he will do next. Carell is masterful in his delivery, and you get a very powerful vibe when you see him on screen. It’s very exciting to see this side of Carell.
Gleeson’s character is as multi-dimensional as Carell’s, but with all his reactions as extreme’s. Gleeson delivers those extremes well, captured through his facial expressions, gestures and body language. His role in this production is pivotal to the progression of the story, adding pace to Carell’s “patient” (pardon the pun) character. One would argue that Gleeson’s character is the train upon which this series moves, while balancing the spotlight with all the characters.
The supporting cast are very much engaged with these two leads, making them vital to how this story evolves. I found their performances as important as both Carell’s and Gleeson’s, while still leaving me to question their game-changing role in the bigger scheme of things as the story progressed.
The cast are the life-blood of this show, and their performances carry this production forward.
Filmmakers Chris Long, Kevin Bray and Gwyneth Horder-Payton have directed each of their respective episodes to perfection, capturing every form of emotion one could in this dire situation positioned by the show.
I won’t get into detail, as I don’t want to spoil the show, but I will say that there are some creative techniques and brilliant breaks in the flow of the story that really make the characters shine. They provide moments in the journey that allow us to understand the thoughts of each character, giving us an opportunity to reflect.
I also appreciate the balanced nature of the filmmaking. I didn’t feel one character was overfocused on or underrepresented, or that the tone of the production was still throughout the series. The up-and-down nature of the emotions in each episode actually kept the pace of the story moving, rather than it being flat and eerie throughout.
Dangerously touchy subject matter
I will say this, without giving away any details (again): I did feel that one or two pieces of subject matter maybe a bit sensitive in nature.
I for one like being cognizant about people’s views and let it be their own, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. However, some of the specific moments/interactions/dialogue may not be received well by some people. I see why they are included, and what role it plays in character development and the story as a whole. However, sensitive subject matter is simply sensitive subject matter, irrespective of your personal opinion.
I don’t want to discuss this more, so I will leave it to the viewers to decide how they feel about it all. I will just say that this is a production of make-believe, aka acting, aka fiction. I would approach it as that when developing your own views.
What I will say is that this production features great acting, and a keep-you-on-your-toes story, and that is fundamentally the greatest ingredients anyone could every way in a production.
The Patient is a sophisticated and grounded production, and I feel it showcases some of the finest performances from Steve Carell and Domhnall Gleeson. I certainly think this should be on your watchlist.
The Patient premieres on Disney+ on August 30, 2022.
Cover: ‘The Patient’ / FX Network / Disney