In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men—Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford)—each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them, Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved—including Dr. Stone himself—profoundly changed. Based on a remarkable true story, Three Christs is a fascinating and moving look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.
This impeccable cast leaves their hearts on the screen. Gere, Dinklage, Goggins, Whitford, and Pollak are at their best. Based on true events in the 1950’s, when shock therapy was the most common treatment for a schizophrenic outburst, Dr. Stone introduces psychotherapy as a means of potentially curing this diagnosis.
Gere as Dr. Stone is as reliable as ever. It’s a solid and compassionate performance. Peter Dinklage as Joseph (or Jesus #1) has all the elegance of an eccentric European professor. An opera aria and letter writing are his means of self-expression. Dinklage is nothing short of riveting. Bradley Whitford plays Clyde (#2). Carrying a tattered cardboard box and responding in oxymoronic rhetoric, he is charming and genuine.
Walton Goggins is Leon (JC #3). Intuitive and emotionally stunning, his performance is truly award-worthy. Charlotte Hope as Dr. Stone’s research assistant gives an innocent and inquisitive tone to her character Becky. Kevin Pollak is Dr. Orbus. He is a power-wielding man whose true nature is slow to emerge. Unscrupulous in his selfishness, Pollak plays him in such a way that while you loathe him, he is essential as a foil for Gere. I would be remiss if I did not mention James Monroe Iglehart as Benny, the group’s orderly. He is the perfect balance between professional and personal. He could be the very representation of the film’s viewer.
The film has highs and lows in pacing. It’s simple but precisely shot. Ultimately, this film shines in its high caliber performances. Three Christs is an important story in the larger scheme of discussing mental illness across the spectrum. Not labeling individuals but treating them with compassion. It tackles healing through human connection and not the for-profit approach to medicine.
IFC Films will release THREE CHRISTS in theaters, On Digital and On Demand on Friday, January 10, 2020.
THREE CHRISTS is directed by award-winning filmmaker Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) from a script co-written by Avnet and Eric Nazarian. The film is based on Milton Rokeach’s groundbreaking and controversial experiment chronicled in his book The Three Christs Of Ypsilanti. THREE CHRISTS features an all-star cast including Richard Gere (Chicago, Pretty Woman), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Walton Goggins (“Justified,” Them That Follow), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” Get Out), Charlotte Hope(Allied, Les Miserables), and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “ER”).