World renowned psychiatrist Phil Stutz is the focal point of the documentary titled after him. Directed by friend and patient Jonah Hill, Stutz intimately explores the therapeutic process by reverting the doctor-patient binary between the two of them as they recount their journeys in mental health.
The irony of making a movie about his therapist while struggling to navigate his own anxiety is not lost on Hill. When the documentary hits the first quarter, the fourth wall is broken a step further than it’s been thus far to reveal the green screen and the two years of work that went into what’s being portrayed as an hour-long session.
The cornerstone of Stutz’s approach to therapeutic treatment are ‘the tools’—five steps to reframe one’s cognitive processes. What can easily come off as a promotional film for Stutz’s book The Tools is instead an intimate and poignant portrayal of how these two men use them.
The audience is invited to experience the friendship between Hill and Stutz as they navigate what kind of movie they want to make. We aren’t presented with a perfect finished product, but rather one that evolves as we watch.
Hill overcomes discomfort with vulnerability as he discusses the insecurities he’s experienced about his weight throughout his life in the spotlight. Stutz helps him see how humanity is molded by how a person’s experiences interact with their internal characters.
The so-called ‘life force’ is from where we recharge, ‘Part X’ is the villain in the story of life representing pain, uncertainty, and constant work, and your ‘Shadow’ is the part of you that you wish you were not but cannot get rid of.
Meanwhile, Hill challenges Stutz to confront himself as a person—the therapist is visibly moved to be on the receiving end of the questions. He reflects on losing his brother at nine, having to be the emotional support system for his mother, and being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease as a young adult in this majorly no-holds-barred session.
While intensely personal, Stutz manages to be fascinatingly relatable by boiling down the natural cognitive processes to a so-called set of tools.
Breaking through the dark cloud with a flow of grateful thoughts, dealing with resentment by absorbing the love the universe has to offer, and radical acceptance of the lessons that derive from every experience are worked through by Hill and Stutz, but also by the watcher who is pulled into personal reflection.
The relationship between two men, let alone a man and his therapist, is one often left out of popular media. It’s often taken least seriously, but here proves itself as the gentlest.
Hill widens the scope of what treatment is in a beautifully shot documentary. It’s accessible—to be enjoyed and pondered on from the comfort of one’s home. Overall, Stutz is incredibly well done.
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