Sunday, July 23, 2006
Psychiatry in the twenty-first century: Garden State
In the film Garden State , 26 year-old Andrew Largeman comes home, after nine years, from Los Angeles to New Jersey, when his mother dies. We learn that his psychiatrist father thinks that Andrew has never been able to forgive himself for causing his mother to become paraplegic when he was nine years old. In addition to sending Andrew to a boarding school at age 16, father has been prescribing and Andrew has been taking a cocktail of 3 SSRI's, lithium and depakote. When the story begins Andrew is shown as numb to all feeling, but he forgets his medications in Los Angeles, and through the four days that the film depicts we see Andrew becoming progressively more able to respond emotionally. Of course there is a plot, which gives Andrew plenty to respond to, but the film is also a, not too subtle, critique of the numbing of society by psychotropic drugs. Reference to Brave New World completes the picture. In addition to the iatrogenic effects of psychoactive drugs, the film also points to the destructive consequences of the psychiatrist-father's insistence that Andrew suffers from being "unable to forgive" himself for what we are told was just an accident. Ian Holm's portrayal of the father's solemn, but misguided, benevolence also parodies psychiatry as a profession of would-be sages.