Main Features No 72
Reviewing David and Lisa (1998)
Two young people meet in an adolescent mental health unit, cared for by a kindly psychologist and strike up a friendship and fall in love.
David & Lisa Trailer from Made at 37, http://www.vimeo.com
As you may know I particularly enjoy watching films with a mental health slant, my first review being Love and Mercy (2014) and more recently One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). When I entered the Sidney Poitier Blogathon, on reading more about his movies, I learnt about his TV movie David and Lisa (1998). This film tells of young teens meet in a residential adolescent mental health unit and strike up a strong friendship which leads to love – The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey. It also stars Brittany Murphy as Lisa and Lukas Haas (who was once upon a time ago, the wee boy in Witness (1985)) as David. Poitier plays Dr Jack Miller, the unit’s psychologist. It is a remake of an Academy Award nominated film, also named David and Lisa (1962).
The opening film’s credits are run over some flashback scenes of a family showing a wee boy and his parents playing on a beach. When then cut to Haas as an older David crying and shaking in bed. He has had a distressing nightmare and his mother Alix (Allison Janney) is overly concerned about him. She tells him he may need to see another doctor as his tablets don’t seem to help him. She then takes him to the Border School, an adolescent mental health unit, run by the kindly psychologist Dr. (Poitier). David meets the other residents making brief eye contact only with Lisa (Murphy) However, on being touched accidentally by a girl Natalie, he has an outburst saying “Touch can Kill”. David becomes shaky and leaves the scene, and a bewildered and upset Natalie. Meanwhile Miller learns more about David from his mother, we find out the bad dreams started before his father passed away. We learn more about Poitier’s character as he speaks with David’s mother, Alix. Miller is supportive, caring and appears to have the best interest for his residents. When he speaks with Alix, he is calm and reassuring with her when talking about her son’s condition.
When Miller talks more with David on his own, David talks about watches, and is extremely interested in time. He reads about the mechanics of watches, and is drawing plans for the most precisely timed watch ever. He is also overly anxious regarding death. We learn that David is a voluntary resident, and that his mother can take him away from the unit if she so desires. Brittany as Lisa however speaks in rhymes and finds it difficult to relate to others when they do not speak to her in this way. She dances and is friendly and approaches him, speaking in rhyme and attempts to forge a friendship asking him to spend time with her. She also has a quieter self who prefers to write named Murial. Over time and experience, David recognises this rhyming speech pattern in Lisa and speaks back to her this way, to her obvious delight. And instead of leaving as he hasn’t rhymed back, she stays with him as the pair continue a conversation in rhyme. David in turn asks Lisa to be with him, but not to touch him so it is obvious he wants to spend time with her. The two form a friendship this way, and there appears to be an attraction between them.
Over time, with fits and starts, David opens up to Miller. He tells his psychologist of his bad dreams, on how he has nightmares where he kills people using the hand of a big clock. Later he opens up to him about the death of his father. He touches a ball for the first time, almost without thinking. During his time with the others, he spends time with Lisa even suggesting how Lisa can be helped with her keyworker. He also initiates friendships with others too. Lisa supports him too by encouraging him to go outside with her and to the beach. It is apparent they are both good for each other, and their health is improving. However after David’s mother visits for the first time, another resident becomes distressed in her presence. She then has David discharged against the psychologists advice, stating she has concerns about David…
As David and Lisa, Haas and Murphy were equally fantastic, both giving heart-felt, credible and sensitive performances. Murphy was justly nominated for a Young Artist Award for her leading performance. Haas’s scenes with Murphy were lovely and sensitively played too, with both responding well to the script and to each other. I found them completely believable and empathetic in their performances, both portraying the vulnerable teens effectively. Poitier has a kindly manner to him and with his soft yet calm voice, convinced me as a caring psychologist. He made his character appear trusting and caring from the outset, explaining matters in a non-judgemental way, he seemed approachable and non-threatening. With Poitier’s performance relating to these qualities was easy to see how David would feel that he could confide and trust in him.
It was a nice change that the script related to adolescents rather than adults. Also that the script only touched on the romantic feelings of the pair putting greater emphasis on how they built up their rapport, trust and relationship. I believe had this film concentrated on their love story, it would have made the tale less believable. It would have turned a tale of the coming together of two troubled teens that it is into a predictable Hollywood by the numbers love against all odds girl meets boy movie. Their mental health stories becoming a cliché in the process. I feel that this film should be shown to adolescents to learn more about mental health issues, as opposed to reading scare stories and headlines from the press. In this film mental health was depicted in a caring, compassionate and sensitive way. To conclude, this was a great find in promoting mental health positively, and more media should follow this example as to be honest it’s about time they did.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦 😦😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: 0 /10
Bonus Trailer: No
DAVID AND LISA . BRITTANY MURPHY. 1977-2009, BRITTANYMURPHYLV, WWW.YOUTUBE.COM
The 90 Years of Sidney Poitier Blogathon
More about the Blogathon can be found HERE and is hosted by Virginie Pronovost at The Wonderful World of Cinema. The only other film reviewed with these cast members is Mars Attacks (1996) which stars Lukas Haas.