May 26

Agoraphobia: “Woman In the Window,” Etc.

The three films addressed in this post all have a main female character with agoraphobia, defined by Psychology Today as “a fear of any place where escape may be difficult, including large open spaces or areas with crowds, as well as various means of travel.”

Furthermore, each of the featured agoraphobic characters is either a therapist and/or being treated by one.

I. The Woman in the Window (2021)

In addition to Amy Adams as a child psychologist with agoraphobia, cast members include Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Anthony Mackie. The not-a-rave critics’ consensus, per Rotten Tomatoes? “A milquetoast and muddled thriller that drowns in its frenzied homages, The Woman in the Window will have audiences closing their curtains.”

Although little is explained about Anna Fox’s (Adams) condition, she never leaves the house. Stephanie Zacharek, Time, notes that Anna is continually “in a moody haze induced by the anti-anxiety drugs her shrink (Tracy Letts) has prescribed for her, which she pairs with copious amounts of red wine.”

Naturally, the shrink sessions have to be in her home that she never leaves.

One of her main preoccupations is looking out the window (of course), which leads to seeing something very disturbing. “Any reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is strictly intentional: early on we catch a glimpse of James Stewart’s face, in all its neurotic postwar glory, on Anna’s TV screen. His Jeff Jefferies is her dream twin, a man who has come to prefer the prurient watching of life to actually living it.”

Zacharek describes this Netflix film as “a modern gothic tale of obsession, voyeurism and possible madness.” The real suspense, she adds, is whether Anna will “ever be able to bring herself to go outside again.”

II. Agoraphobia (2015)

This horror flick is new to streaming (Amazon Prime). An agoraphobic, Faye, is afraid of what’s inside her newly inherited home. “Even looking at the view outside from her safe walls causes anxiety and panic attacks” (filminquiry.com). Importantly, she does have a psychiatrist, Doctor Murphy.

As Faye’s husband will be gone a lot because of his work, a woman is hired to keep Faye company and tend to the house. But possibly her biggest problem lurks inside, not necessarily outside.

Lots of weird and scary things ensue. From filminquiry.com:

Is it Faye’s mental illness playing tricks on her or is there something more sinister going on? As the lines begin to blur between her illness and the paranormal, strange things start to occur in the home. Is she just paranoid? Is someone messing with her on purpose? Is there another presence in the house that no one is aware of?

III. Copycat (1995)   

Filmfare.com rates this thriller as one of the best films that deals with agoraphobia.

Psychologist Helen Hudson ( Sigourney Weaver) suffers from agoraphobia after being harmed by a serial killer, but when another killer starts copycat killings, cop MJ Monahan (Holly Hunter) asks her for help. This new killer is a fan of famous serial killers of yore….He develops a thing for Helen and begins stalking her big time. Helen deduces that he has been following the list of serial killers in the same order as she has been presenting them in her lectures and she tries to work out where and when he will strike next. What follows is a cat and mouse chase between the hunter and the hunted.

Feb 16

“Prayers for Bobby”: “The Gay” Can’t Be Prayed Away

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, both religion and therapy figured prominently in the life of Bobby Griffith and his family, whose story has been told in the Lifetime TV movie Prayers for Bobby (2009), an adaptation of Leroy Aarons‘s nonfiction book of 1996. For her role as mom Mary Griffith, Sigourney Weaver was nominated for several major awards.

Religion. In the movie, when Mary finds out her son Bobby (Ryan Kelley) is gay, she tries to “cure” him with scripture. In an interview conducted around the time of the movie’s airing, the real-life Mary stated: “My mind-set was completely tied up in the word of the gospel, and I couldn’t hear anything differently. It wouldn’t have made a difference whether this happened yesterday or several years ago. I couldn’t hear anything else.”

This story is just as timely today, in other words, as other moms just like Mary Griffith—moms who are unable to process their kids’ sexual orientation in any other way but by turning to their religious beliefs—are still out there trying the pray-it-away fix.

Therapy: This too was forced on Bobby and was neither comfortable for him nor successful. The film shows an exchange between the psychiatrist and Bobby’s father:

Psychiatrist: A lot of times, confusions like Bobby’s can be caused by a distant father or an overbearing mother.
Robert Griffith: Well, I had both and I am fine.

Behold the shrink‘s pathologizing theory of gayness in which both the gay person and the parents are indicted. This was more common during that era than today—but unfortunately can and still does happen. And in Robert’s response, too, we see echoes of the shrink’s notion that “fine” equals heterosexual.

Bobby becomes increasingly tormented by the lack of acceptance he feels; thus, he’s also increasingly depressed. The Variety review of Prayers for Bobby:

So it goes, until Bobby — in an act of pain and desperation — flings himself off a freeway overpass at the age of 20. What follows is Mary’s spiritual quest to understand what transpired — a tormented, tear-stained journey for which three hankies won’t be nearly enough.

“I know now why God didn’t heal Bobby. He didn’t heal him because there was nothing wrong with him,” Mary later says.

Viewing just the movie’s trailer may give you reason enough to pull out one of those hankies:

Yes, for real, Mary’s quest turns her into a gay activist, bravely admitting over and over again her prior mistakes and fighting for the rights and dignity of gay people everywhere.