For his last film, 2008’s A Christmas Tale, director Arnaud Desplechin told of a particular kind of mental illness, one that families are inclined to feed into one another in times of togetherness. With his next film, Jimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, Desplechin is dealing with a completely different form of psychosis, one that forms inside the mind of the titular postwar Native American. As films based on true stories go, this one looks to be one of a kind; we’re just hoping it’s not all in our minds.

If a film’s merit could be based on its lead actors alone, Jimmy P. would be a blazing success, as it stars Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) and Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace). But it’s a lot harder to tell how good this movie is going to be judging from the above trailer, via THR. The film was nominated for the coveted Palme D’Or Award at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, which speaks to its art house appeal. Also going for it is a floating tone, which seems to jump from historical biography to suspenseful mystery and back again; so long as it’s played right, that’s the kind of tonal shift I don’t mind a film employing.

Based on the 1951 work Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian from psychoanalyst George Devereux, Jimmy P. follows the Oscar-winning Del Toro as Jimmy Picard, a Blackfoot Indian whose stretch in World War II has left him plagued with mental trauma and possible schizophrenia. Amalric portrays a Hungarian Jewish doctor who takes to task figuring out what it is that makes Picard tick, and how to right his woes. The original text was a founding work on dream interpretation and verbal therapy, so the central story is a very interesting one indeed.

But this isn’t just a movie about PTSD; it’s also a film that trades heavily in ethnicity and culture. Is Picard only deemed crazy because he’s an Indian? Would the white man have to face the same kind of discrimination? We’ll assume the answer is no, since Almaric’s character is seen constantly fighting for Picard’s worth. But if he isn’t crazy, then what is he?

The trailer largely makes this look like a gorgeously directed emotional trek through the liberation of Picard’s brainspace, with a swooping string score to accompany it. But a few moments, including the final seconds, lend an ominously dark tone to the film. Del Toro’s final words are downright chilling: "If a man keeps on taking these things as time goes on, they pile up. And one day, it gets to be too much."

Audiences everywhere can perform their own version of psychotherapy on Jimmy P. when the film hits theaters on February 14, quickly followed by a VOD release on February 20.

jimmy p. poster

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