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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In Treatment – Season Three DVD Review

Bringing viewers deeper into the process of psychotherapy than perhaps any previous show, In Treatment: The Complete Third Season picks up as Dr. Paul Weston (Golden Globe winner Gabriel Byrne, The Usual Suspects) continues to struggle with the aftermath of his recent divorce as well as his move to Brooklyn where he now practices.  In Treatment: The Complete Third Season finds Weston in the midst of new emotional and physical challenges including hand tremors he fears might be the onset of Parkinson’s disease, the announcement that his ex-wife is remarrying and his youngest son’s problems acclimating to life with a stepfather.  Meanwhile, he takes on three challenging new patients and turns to a new therapist, Adele (Oscar nominee Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone), who compels him to confront his own deep-rooted fears about his health, divorce, patients and all-encompassing relationship with former therapist Gina Toll.


Film (5 out of 5 stars)

Originally based on the Israeli television show BiTipul, this American version adaption is called In Treatment and this season varies from the previous two since the show’s writers are creating new story-lines since they can no longer follow what was done during the original show’s two year run.   During this third season, Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) is still adjusting to the changes in his life, including his recent divorce and the fact that his practice has move to Brooklyn New York.  He seems just as busy as before, with a steady stream of patients coming to see him for a variety of reasons.  The show is broken up into weekly appointments for each character, so you are watching two of their sessions with unseen week in-between and one at the end of the week when Paul sees his own therapist Adele (Amy Ryan).

The first session this season is with a man named Sunil (Irrfan Khan) whose son and daughter-in-law have brought him into therapy because they believe that his depression over the loss of his wife is getting worse.  They claim that Sunil is becoming more distant to his grandchildren and they are concerned that he no longer even showers unless he is shamed into doing so by his grandchildren.  His daughter-in-law has also become uncomfortable around him and believes that he is growing hostile towards her.  Paul soon learns that Sunil is devastated from the loss of his wife and was forced to come to America because of his wife’s dying wishes.  Sunil is unhappy that his son changed his name to sound more American and has seemed to abandon his culture.  Sunil blames all of this on his daughter-in-law and he’s also not happy with how she raises his grandchildren and that she doesn’t seem to respect his culture’s customs.

Paul’s next session is with an actress named Frances (Debra Winger), who initially comes to Paul for help because she keeps blanking out during her stage performances.  When that happens, she forgets her place in the play and her lines, which is causing her professional embarrassment and could jeopardize her job as one of the producers isn’t happy with her.  When Paul tries to discover the underlying reasons for her problem, he learns that Frances’ sister Tricia (who used to be a patient of Paul) is dying from cancer and that Frances feels disconnected from everyone in her life, including her ex-husband and especially her daughter.  Frances not only is afraid that she too will have cancer like her mother and sister, but she’s also more concerned about how people view her than is healthy.

Paul’s other patient is an angry young man named Jesse (Dane DeHaan) who is only in therapy because it was part of an arrangement that allowed him to remain in school.  Jesse is a promiscuous gay teen who loves to push people away in a twisted attempt to see if they care about him.  He has no self-worth and the knowledge that his birth parents didn’t want him has eaten away at him for years.  His adoptive parents are unable to contain him and don’t know what to do with him other than send him to see Paul which costs more than they can really afford.  Instead of taking his medication which might help him, Jesse has turned into a drug peddler and sells his medicine for money, much to the chagrin of Paul.  Jesse is by far the most emotionally and verbally abusive of Paul’s patients and is the one most likely to end up in serious trouble.

The show is really well written and acted, with incredible performances by Byrne and the guest stars.  I’ve always liked Gabriel Byrne as an actor ever since I saw him in The Usual Suspects, and his portrayal of Paul is one of his best performances.  Not only does it require him to actually listen to these patients (which requires a lot more concentration that you’d think) but he is completely believable as a therapist.  Watching him, even people unfamiliar with therapy can see the benefit in it as long as it’s done with someone like Paul.  He really cares about patients and does his best to help them discover the real reasons why they are troubled.  The guest stars also do a great job playing difficult characters and the balance between them and Paul is very interesting.  After watching so much lightweight television, it’s nice to see a show as dense and smart as this one actually make it on television.  This is as close to the real thing as you are ever going to find on television which makes it far more interesting than a show that relies on stunts to draw in viewers.  In Treatment is serious and to the point, with no frivolity or wasted time to it and it’s become one of my favorite HBO shows.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This transfer looks very good for DVD, with some nice detail on display for this anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation.  Colors pop and there’s even some nice texture seen.  Black levels are solid and suitably inky and the contrast is pretty good too.  Flesh tones look very natural and remain consistent throughout the show.  While I would prefer this to be on Blu-ray, this cinematic DVD transfer looks a lot better than I expected it would.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

In Treatment’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also better than expected.  The dialogue is crisp and intelligible throughout thanks to the front channels but what’s surprising is that for a show like In Treatment which is dialogue driven, it has a fairly active surround presence as well with music and ambient atmosphere being delivered by the  rear channels successfully.  Again, this would be better on Blu-ray, but this 5.1 mix sounds very good.

Special Features (0 out of 5 stars)

There are no extras on this set.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

If you are looking for an adult no nonsense show that is well written and acted, then this is the show for you.  Gabriel Byrne’s tour de force performance which earned  him a Golden Globe  is the main reason to watch the show but all of the guest stars are very good too.  It was also nice seeing Debra Winger in front of the camera again.  It’s a shame that the lack of extras brought down the final score so low since everything else about this show deserves high praise.  This show is highly recommended!

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