There was a time that Gerardo Herrero he was an interesting director. I’m not just referring to ‘Detour to Paradise’ (1994), a remarkable suspense film with a script by Daniel Monzón, which refreshed the local thriller scene with the leading role of a disturbing Charles Dance. I’m talking about minor but honest films, such as ‘My friends’ reasons’ (2000), ‘Arquímedes’ principle’ (2004) or ‘An invisible woman’ (2007), which reflected the crisis of a middle class that lived beyond its meansa bourgeoisie incapable of adapting to the new times, with a tone that oscillated between the tragicomic and the costumbrista.
Time has passed and we have seen too many undeniably forgettable Herrero films: ‘May It Look Like an Accident’ (2008), ‘The Night Runner’ (2009), ‘The Whims Killer’ (2019), to name just a few. And it must be recognized that, compared to these, ‘under therapy‘ until it turns out entertaining and easy to watch, also fast digesting. It is also true that there is something, in his characters and in their portrayal, allegedly acid, of the Blacksmith who aroused the most interest in a past that seems too distant.
The director adapts material from the hit play by matias de benedict in a script that introduces three troubled couples in a group therapy session. Malena Alterio, Alexandra Jiménez, Fele Martínez, Antonio Pagudo, Eva Ugarte and Juan Carlos Vellido are its protagonists. The humor doesn’t work, the drama doesn’t arise, the intrigue more or less holds the interest. Herrero’s direction is agile, with a camera that is too omnipresent at times when it would have been convenient for it to be invisible.
The group of performers, recently and inexplicably awarded at the Malaga Festival, some magnificent in other films, does what they can with some cliché characters, flat to the core and annoyingly one-dimensional. None stands out above the other, all they use their proven boards driving on an autopilot log.
The dialogues and conflicts are too hackneyed; even so, the rhythm workswhich provides that the experience is bearable within its narrow limits, as long as the viewer is benevolent and patient.
‘Under therapy’: the filmed theater and a surprise twist
The strategy of taking a play that has worked on the tables to adapt it for the big screen is not new, even begins to become relatively frequent. ‘Under therapy’ pales before the findings of ‘The method’ by Marcelo Pyñeiro, based on the work of Jordi Galcerán; from ‘The One-Eyed King’ by Marc Crehuet, based on his own work; ‘Litus’ by Dani de la Orden, based on the work by Marta Buchaca; from ‘La llamada’ by Los Javis, based on his own work; or ‘El test’, also by Dani de la Orden, based on the work of Jordi Vallejo. In all of them their characters and respective conflicts mattered; here, barely.
The ensemble is also close to other films that feature few characters and a single location, such as the overrated ‘Sentimental’ by Cesc Gay or the underrated ‘Perfect Strangers’ by Álex de la Iglesia, a remake of the film of the same name by Paolo Genovese. In front of them, ‘Under therapy’ also seems to play in a lower league.
As the main novelty and interest, Gerardo Herrero plays in the denouement, as before Matías de Benito, to give a twist to the story that turns the light comedy of married couples into a film denouncing a circumspect gesture.
It is interesting how this last act makes the film a kind of whodunit conversely, which would not have upset even Agatha Christie herself. The worst thing is that the tone used by the director is closer to an opportunistic social message than to ironic deconstruction, which adds airs to an already weak result.