Prime, a 2005 film billed as a romantic comedy, features a therapist named Lisa (Meryl Streep) who has a client named Rafi (Uma Thurman) whose new boyfriend happens to be Lisa’s son, David. Although Rafi is talking about David in therapy, she hasn’t yet put a name to him; thus, neither therapist nor client knows that the man in question is who he is to Lisa. A weird boundary issue not likely to happen in the real world. Could it happen? Yes. Likely? No.
Although it does happen on a regular basis that a client talks about someone the therapist knows, it’s usually not someone as close to the therapist as a family member or close friend. Sometimes it’s clear to both parties that certain connections exist, sometimes not. Sometimes the therapist hears about someone she knows but can’t disclose this to her client because that someone is also a client—thus, such info is confidential.
Back to Prime. When Lisa does inadvertently learn—outside the therapy office—that Rafi’s involved with David, she doesn’t know what to do. Rafi doesn’t yet know what Lisa knows. So she consults someone—her own shrink? her supervisor?—I don’t think it’s clear which type of advisor this is. A decision is made for Lisa not to share with Rafi what she now knows. The reasoning is that it’s in the best interests of Rafi not to know her boyfriend is her shrink‘s son because telling her could do more harm than good to the therapeutic bond—especially if the relationship with David winds up ending sooner than later anyway.
Just writing the above paragraph felt aggravating and tedious to me—which parallels how I felt about the movie at this particular juncture. Although the film already felt iffy, now it was ruined because Lisa knew Rafi was dating David and didn’t decide to disclose this to Rafi. Why, I wondered, couldn’t Rafi be allowed into the loop and given the chance to decide how she feels about both her therapy and dating relationships in the light of this new info?
Here’s what Roger Ebert’s review indicated about Lisa’s decision:
…when the characters have depth and their decisions have consequences, I grow restless when their misunderstandings could be ended by words that the screenplay refuses to allow them to utter.
…In my opinion, [the] responsibility is to declare a conflict of interest, but then I’m not a shrink and besides, then we wouldn’t have a movie.
I do declare, Mr. Ebert, even though you are not a shrink, you do make a good deal of sense.
If you’ve seen Prime, what did you think? If you haven’t, you might want to form your own opinion and get back to me. I mean, it does have Meryl Streep after all. Here’s the trailer: