David Tennant is on pugnacious, mercurial and beady-eyed form in this very interesting and absorbing film. It’s one of his best performances. He plays the psychiatrist RD Laing, who became a 60s counterculture hero for challenging what he saw as the profession’s heartless prison-hospital ethos of tranquillisers and electroconvulsive shock treatment.
Instead, Laing proposed a holistic treatment without drugs (although medically licensed LSD was acceptable), using group therapy and communal healing. He set up a refuge at Kingsley Hall in east London, that was regarded suspiciously as something like a Bedlam cult.
Hard-drinking, hard-smoking Laing laughs and cries along with his patients – who adore him – and angrily tells interviewers about the people “out to get” him. Elisabeth Moss plays Laing’s (composite-fictional) partner Angie, and Gabriel Byrne and Michael Gambon are excellent as his patients: old men who in a later era might be overlooked as care-in-the-community homeless.
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