David and Lisa (1962)

David and Lisa
Directed by Frank Perry
Written by Eleanor Perry from a book by Theodore Isaac Rubin, MD
Lisa and David Company/Vision Associates Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

David Clemens: What makes you think that I ever really talked to you at all? When people talk, it means they say what they really feel. All you ever do is toss words around.

Patients David and Lisa help each other recover from mental illness in this drama about a school for troubled youth.

David Clemens (Kier Dullea) lives in his head where he is an expert on psychology.  He crumbles into a sobbing mess if anyone, however accidentally, touches him.  Lisa Brandt (Janet Margolin) is a child-like schizophrenic who speaks only in rhyme.  Somehow the two patients connect on a deep level.  David uses his insight to communicate with her and they become friends.  In the meantime, David is resistant to any type of therapeutic interaction with the staff.

Eventually, David’s parents take him out of the school.  He runs away from home and back to the school where he finally begins to open up.

It is amazing how the nature vs. nurture debate has shifted in the last 55 years.  I think most professionals accept a biochemical and genetic model of mental illness these days. It sure is cheaper than talk therapy!  Back in 1962, the model was distinctly Freudian.  I tend to think that it is a mixture of both nature and nurture.  At any rate, this is a touching, if a bit simplistic, coming-of-age story