There have been years and years of work that have changed the landscape of psychiatry. The methods that resulted in the progress the field has made over time have been documented in many films. Thankfully, the treatment of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia has become more humane over time, but it’s through film and other media that we catch a glimpse of how things used to be, which was, at times, borderline barbaric.
Based on actual events, Three Christs takes place in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 1959, in the state mental hospital. Richard Gere plays Dr. Allen Stone, a psychiatrist who is determined to cure paranoid schizophrenia through more unconventional means than the usual shock treatments and insulin comas that were business as usual at the time. At the hospital, there are two patients, Joseph Cassell (Peter Dinklage) and Clyde Benson (Bradley Whitford), who both suffer from the delusion that they are Jesus Christ. Dr. Stone is so fascinated with this development that he tasks his research assistant, Becky Anderson (Charlotte Hope), with finding any other patients in Michigan mental hospitals who also think they’re the Son of God. They only found one, Leon Gabor (Walton Goggins). Dr. Stone then has the revolutionary idea of putting the “Three Christs” in a room together to see if it will help cure them of their delusions.
“…Leon has an issue with women which stems from a fraught relationship with his mother…”
Three Christs is filled with fine actors. The supporting cast is full of wonderful character actors such as Kevin Pollack and Stephen Root, who play fellow less progressive doctors in the hospital. Juliana Margulies plays Stone’s wife, Ruth. However, the real bread and butter of the film are Dinklage, Goggins, and Whitford. They brilliantly portray men suffering from paranoid delusions. None of the portrayals are cartoonish, and all are sympathetic. I am a huge fan of basically anything Walton Goggins does, and this film is no exception. Teaming up with director Jon Avnet again after their work together on Justified, he embodies the suffering of not knowing what’s real and what isn’t to a tee. Peter Dinklage is another actor who is always impeccable in his performances and again, no exception here. Joseph is probably the most impactful character insofar as what happens on his journey, and I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Dinklage playing him. Then there is Whitford, who always seems to know how to bring a spark of comedic joy even to the worst characters (Get Out, anyone?), and he imbues Clyde Benson with this comedic sensibility, giving him a penchant for singing commercial jingles at the strangest of times.