In the summer of 2023, the film What Strangers Talk About (original title Bajo terapia) by Spanish director Gerardo Herrero began showing in theaters in America, Europe and on pay movie services.
The plot of the movie Under Therapy
Three married couples are invited to a group therapy session with psychologist Antonia at the same time. When they arrive, it turns out that the psychologist will not be with them and they will have to conduct the session on their own. For this purpose Antonia has prepared eight envelopes with tasks and a horn. The participants have to open the envelopes one by one according to sequential numbers. After completing the task and before opening the next envelope, the horn must be blown.
The whole plot is centered on the marital problems of three couples. The session begins with the simplest and most innocent task – to give your name, age and place of work. But already at this stage some heroes have problems and reasons for offenses. With each stage of the plot development the viewer becomes more and more immersed in the problems of the heroes, learns the secrets that had previously carefully hidden.
Starting from the penultimate task the theme of intimate relationships is voiced, which leads to the discussion of pathological jealousy and domestic violence.
The finale is unpredictable and surprising, adding to the similarity of the whole picture with Agatha Christie style detectives. And as in a classic detective story, if you are attentive to details, you will start to “see things through” from the middle of the action.
Starting from the 6th envelope you begin to suspect that all this therapy is for the sake of one couple – Roberto and Marta. When Esteban confesses to his gambling addiction, Laura gently leads Marta to draw an analogy to his life and start talking. Talking about sex reinforces the effect they’ve achieved, though Marta’s husband doesn’t allow a word to be said. And after Laura and Carla interject in the restroom behind Martha’s back, everything falls into place.
This whole group therapy session is contrived for one woman who has been abused and silent for eight years. In order to get her to confess what’s going on and report it to the police, you have to put her through all 8 tasks. The main point is to give Martha a chance to relax, feel more confident and realize that her problem is not unique and there is a way out.
The ending is bright and spectacular, but leaves a feeling of incompleteness. It remains unclear what the horn is for. What happens to Martha and Robert next? What has kept her silent for eight years. And what will happen to her and her son if Roberto goes to jail? A lot of questions that the director never answered.
The meaning of the movie Under Therapy
Although seemingly light and ironic at first, the movie touches on serious social issues of family relationships and domestic tyranny. Why do women tolerate oppressive men? What makes them continue relationships and forgive their abuse? What to do if you find yourself in a situation of domestic violence? The creators of the picture offer their options for answering these questions.
Characterization of heroes
The viewer is invited to observe the lives of mature people, four of whom have been married for a long time and two of whom are on the verge of starting a family.
The youngest and healthiest relationship is between Carla (Eva Ugarte) and Esteban (Antonio Pagudo). He is a former travel agency owner who now works as a personal shopper. Esteban is a balaguer and joker, easily communicates with strangers even on intimate topics. He invented his own profession and is successful in it. But he has a secret, which will be a revelation for his girlfriend. Carla is an architect, a beautiful and confident woman. It can be seen that she is fine with Esteban, but something keeps her from cohabiting with him.
Daniel (Fele Martinez) and Laura (Alexandra Jimenez) are a couple who fight from the first minute. Laura is a lawyer, with a strong and independent character, who constantly “nags” her husband. He reciprocates her and is ready to snap at every outburst of his wife. At first it seems that their main problem is a disagreement in child-rearing, but gradually you realize that everything is much deeper.
Roberto (Juan Carlos Velido) and Marta (Malena Alterio) are a classic patriarchal family of middle-income people. The husband is an entrepreneur and the main earner. He constantly suppresses his wife, sometimes literally shutting her mouth. Roberto is not ready to consider the opinion of women, and all arising problems are accustomed to solve with swearing and fists. Marta used to work as a teacher, but because of her drinking problems she was fired. Accustomed to listening to her husband in everything, she is constantly looking back at him in therapy, waiting for approval or censure. However, alcohol and support from the other women make her bolder and more outspoken. The problems of this couple are the most serious, but are hidden from the viewer until the very end.
The movie turned out to be ambiguous and intriguing. For me, it is on a par with such works as “The Name” (“Le Prenom”), “Garage” and “The Lonely Man Trap”. It is for those who prefer psychological development and inner disclosure of characters to fast-paced pictures and dynamic action.