'Yalom's Cure': Film Review

Courtesy of First Run Features
Of interest only to Yalom's preexisting followers.

A revered psychotherapist gets personal.

An autumnal portrait for followers of psychotherapist and author Irvin Yalom, Sabine Gisiger's Yalom's Cure doesn't really provide the remedies it seems to promise, but rather revels in the life of a man it thinks has most things figured out. Not made for outsiders, the handsomely made but narrowly targeted film may find takers in urban niches with a high population of shrinks and patients; elsewhere, it will need professional groups and video to reach its audience.

Those unfamiliar with Yalom should look someplace else for an introduction. Interviewing only the doctor and his family, Gisiger isn't interested in the outside perspective that would explain why he's worth making a movie about. But those who've made steps toward self-knowledge by reading his books, or are curious about the development of his group-therapy approach, will be pleased to spend this time with him.

Speaking in a relaxed tone that is echoed by long, meditative nature shots, Yalom investigates his relationships with his mother and father, recounts his early desire to pair psychoanalysis with the literary techniques of fiction and explains how, after working with the terminally ill, he realized the benefits of group therapy were too good not to share with more healthy patients.

A large chunk of the picture goes to Yalom's marriage to Marilyn Yalom, who was just a teen when he started wooing her — and to the shadow their successful partnership has cast across the marriages of their children, all of whom have experienced divorce. (One thorny secret seems to be that they prioritized their marriage over their kids.)

We travel with Yalom to France and Hawaii while listening to him discuss the universal terror of death and the pain of loneliness, all things the doctor seems to have conquered — or at least made his peace with. Viewers hoping to learn how he did that, though, will need to pick up a book or two.

Distributor: First Run Features
Production company: Das Kollektiv für Audiovisuelle Werke
Director-screenwriter: Sabine Gisiger
Producer: Philip Delaquis
Director of photography: Helena Vagnieres
Editors: Barbara Weber, Andreas Winterstein
Composer: Balz Bachmann

Not rated, 74 minutes