“You can’t move forward without being vulnerable”
Stutz is an interesting and thought provoking art-house documentary that shines a spotlight on therapy and mental health. The latter is something that needs to be explored in more detail and it’s tragic that in this era, the attitude and thoughts behind mental health aren’t more serious – especially when it comes to men.
Men are constantly being told to “man up” and “be strong”, whilst simultaneously being seen as weak if they shed a tear or open up. It’s something that’s contributed toward the suicide rates being so much higher in men compared to women, but for both sexes a lot needs to be done to change our attitudes toward debilitating conditions like depression and anxiety.
Stutz shouldn’t be viewed as a personal therapy session to change our own behaviour, but it is a project designed to show the fragility of our minds, and works as a refreshing change of pace, seeing two men opening up and expressing love for one another in a platonic way. The film also shines a light on a very specific style of therapy and some of the techniques that come with it, helping to shift anxiety and negative feelings onto something much more digestible and manageable. But deeper than that, this is a film about a very personal relationship with a therapist and his client. Specifically, that of Jonah Hill and Phil Stutz.
If you’ve never heard of him before, Phil Stutz is one of the world’s leading psychiatrists. He’s helped countless patients over 40 years, including world-class creatives, business leaders and more, with some even coming to him as therapy-sceptics and being changed to believers!
The film starts off as a very simple back and forth rapport, shot entirely in black and white, as banter is traded between Stutz and Hill. Within the rabble of jokes and retorts though, Stutz breaks down his techniques, which include little picture cards and specific colloquialistic names for different skills used to combat anxiety, depression or any other number of ill feelings.
Some of this might sound quite simple, but it’s remarkable how much difference it makes to your life. Early on, we’re told that the best way to channel our lifeforce and change our perception is to exercise. And that does make us feel better. Exercise releases dopamine, and the more exercise we do, the higher the levels of dopamine released, making it a rewarding task.
Stutz doesn’t go into the science shtick here but instead simply skims across the surface level for a lot of his ideas, simultaneously working this as a very intimate discussion between two men who have been through a lot. Hill and Stutz trade life stories, including their own demons and what’s led them to this point.
There’s a particularly poignant moment here where Jonah talks about his weight and how it made him feel as a 14 year old, whilst some time later Stutz discuss his Parkinson’s Disease and how that’s affected his life.
Of course, there will be a good number of sceptics who go into this and frown at the style of therapy or the way Stutz is with his patients, admitting that he doesn’t pussyfoot around the problem; Stutz goes all-in to find the root cause of trauma. The style and ideas certainly won’t resonate with everyone.
Despite that, Stutz is a raw, intimate and vulnerable movie, one that shines a light on the devastation mental health problems can cause and the continued work needed to be done to accept that our fragile mental states are just as vulnerable as our physical bodies.
Verdict - 7.5/10