Director: Alistair Legrand
Writer: Luke Harvis, Alistair Legrand
Producer: Ross M. Dinerstein
Stars: Vinessa Shaw, Kevin Rahm, India Eisley, Aaron Stanford, Nestor Serrano, Wilmer Calderon, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, William Atherton
A psychiatrist recovering from a patient’s attack takes the case of an unusual man whose story stirs her own haunting trauma.
I can think of no more appropriate description for “Clinical” than the title itself. Alternate definitions of the word include the terms ‘dispassionate’ and ‘unemotional.’ That’s “Clinical” in a nutshell. It’s a Tin Man built from a cold frame containing the necessary limbs to be a basic movie, but missing internal guts giving it life beyond being average entertainment from a typical low energy thriller.
It’s been two years since psychiatrist Jane Mathis, practitioner of a controversial confrontation therapy technique, was viciously slashed by her suicidal patient Nora. Part of Jane’s recovery is to decline further work with post-trauma patients. However, the unusual case of Alex, a man whose emotional scars cut deeper than the physical ones disfiguring his face, captures Jane’s curiosity and she unwisely dives back in the deep end.
As Jane journeys further into the rabbit hole of Alex’s broken soul, intensified visions of Nora continue tormenting the doctor. Jane is no longer only seeing Nora in the sleep paralysis flashbacks haunting her nightmares either. The troubled teen is seemingly skulking about Jane’s waking world too, possibly trying to terrorize Jane in order to drive the wounded woman mad.
Parallel plotlines, one being Jane’s ongoing trauma with Nora and the other being Jane’s treatment of Alex, propel “Clinical.” You may or may not foresee how the two eventually intertwine, depending on how much the movie compels you to care, which isn’t much at all. Leave it up to the film to take you the distance at its preferred pace and you’re in for a patience test before having an inkling of what the core story is even about.
Sitting through a personal psychiatry session is oftentimes dull. Sitting through someone else’s is even more so, and “Clinical” contains several such sequences for minutes on end. At 15 minutes shy of two hours, “Clinical” has too much time and not enough intrigue occupying it.
Vinessa Shaw may be the top-billed star, but Kevin Rahm is the standout. Rahm’s exceptional portrayal of Alex as an emotionally devastated victim struggling to repair his psyche creates a compassionate character who is the perfect lure for both Jane and the viewer. Rahm melts inside Alex’s sympathetic personality and his performance redeems a fair amount of built-up boredom. Shaw meets him as much as she is able, though having more screentime forces her to shoulder a majority of the autopilot script, and getting out from under all of its conventions is an impossible task.
Introduced and then largely unused relationships with secondary characters including a police officer beau who only shows up when there is trouble, and a best friend who appears even less, give an illusion of there being more to the movie than there actually is. Once “Clinical” finally gets off the pot to get down into the dirt, the climax devolves into a seated James Bond conversation between heroine and villain as the latter conveniently connects the dots positioned up until that point. Here, the movie can no longer hide its seven-deuce hand of standardized suspense in a TV movie template.
For an alternate entertainment option, consider “The Diabolical” (review here) instead. It’s also from director Alistair Legrand, co-writer Luke Harvis, producer Ross M. Dinerstein, and several other principle people involved in both films. In many ways the movies mirror each other, as both feature strong single women navigating personal troubles and new romances while each deals with some sort of haunting. The difference is “The Diabolical” has a less predictable payoff and more satisfying scares.
“Clinical” is the kind of potboiler psychological thriller that might make do in a pinch. Although if not for a suitably gruesome takeaway shot (kudos to the creators for having the courage to do it and the FX team for pulling it off), you could otherwise expect most memories of the movie to dissipate into the ether immediately upon conclusion of the credits, possibly sooner.
Review Score: 50