Created by and starring, Michaela Zannou, COUPLES THERAPY is a provocative dramedy about a couples therapist who treats neurotic New York couples – while simultaneously trying to salvage her own failing marriage.
We meet Natalia (Zannou) – a chain smoker who is in the middle of an emotional melt down in the bathroom of her office. She is livid while leaving a message on her husband’s answering machine – her husband who packed his bags and left in the middle of the night.
A door bell rings and Natalia is sitting in her office with her first couple. She works on fixing broken relationships. She is calm and intelligent with her clients – all with diversified issues. She offers sound advice to Patrick (Ken Arpino) that “swearing and screaming doesn’t help us reach effective communication” – yet shortly thereafter – we see Natalia ignoring her own instruction.
Enter our third couple with marital problems – Mindy (Ashley Weismantel) and Eric (Ryan Metcalf) – and the film drops into something real. Their weekend in Bedford starts to unravel before us as Eric speaks about getting a great suite in a Bed & Breakfast on Peach Street.
Eric states what a lot of people feel when their relationship isn’t working – “It’s just I can never win with her. No matter what I do, no matter what I say, it’s never good enough. I am never good enough.” Natalia cuts into the couples tirade and explains “it’s time, it’s time to make a decision now. You need to decide if you want to stay in this marriage.” It’s a reflective moment in the film – not only for Mindy and Eric – but for Natalia herself.
Upon a visit from Natalia’s good friend Gabby (Manni L. Perez), Gabby gives Natalia the truth – “sweetie, he treated you like trash.”
The rest of the film takes a surprising and interesting turn when Natalia goes to meet Gabby later on that night for a drink – but Gabby is running late.
Through her film, Zannou examines the misconception that we often perceive about therapists. We often feel that they must have it all figured out for themselves – all the answers.
Direction (Randy Ramos Jr.) cinematography (Dominick Sivilli) and editing (Ryan Metcalf) – are top-notch.
Zannou gives a strong performance as a therapist who is in need of therapy herself. She reveals her own struggles of not being able to disconnect from toxic relationships.
Ryan Metcalf as Eric is another standout performance. His strong presence commands the audiences attention and leaves us wanting more. Both he and Zannou have an onscreen chemistry that is palpable.
Some of the comedic scenes felt “pushed” in order to be funny. Also the smoking scenes felt overused and at times, unnatural.
“Why do we feel this urge to mate for life?” is a poignant line in the film. If Natalia could only answer that for herself – and for the rest of us.