Benicio Del Toro and Mathieu Almaric in Jimmy P

Arnaud Desplechin returns with Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, his first film since 2008’s César Award winner A Christmas Tale. In it, Jimmy Picard (Benicio Del Toro), a Blackfoot Indian, is suspected of suffering from PTSD, having endured multiple debilitating side effects after his service in World War II. 

While undergoing tests at the pioneering Menninger Clinic in Topeka, the house doctors suspect that their hesitant diagnosis of schizophrenia may be incorrect—mostly due to their self-admitted ignorance of “Indian behavior”—so they bring in Georges Devereux (Mathieu Almaric), who has spent time with Mohave Indians, and thus may be more knowledgeable of Jimmy’s cultural norms. The two men embark on a process of psychoanalysis that digs up Jimmy’s traumas, one memory at a time. Based on the book Reality and Dream by Devereux, himself, this detailed account of unchartered grounds in ethno-psychotherapy showcases the powerhouse talent of Del Toro and Almaric across their scenes together (a great deal of the film). 

In a press screening for Jimmy P, Desplechin spoke about the broad cultural depth the film covers—being by a French director, about a Native American Indian and a European, all taking place in America’s plains. “The film is a melting pot, as the plot is. It has one foot in France and one foot in America.  But it also has one foot in Puerto Rico,” where Del Toro was born.

Arnaud Desplechin on the set of Jimmy P

Desplechin went on to explain casting Del Toro and Almaric, two actors who are “worlds apart” in both origin and professional method. Just like the characters, “they should never meet, but they meet,” and thus form an unlikely bond. This is the first film for which Desplechin wrote parts with two specific actors in mind. It combines the eager, mostly upbeat performance of Almaric with the subdued complexities of Del Toro’s therapy progressions. Scott Foundas of Variety said of their performances, “Jimmy P is never better than when its two leads share the screen, a relationship all the more resonant and moving for Desplechin’s refusal to make it cutesy or contrived.”

Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Section: Official Selection
Screens: 10/1 at 8:15pm, 10/2 at 2:30pm, 10/6 at 2:30pm

NYFF Official Description:

In the late 1940s, at the progressive Menninger Clinic, two mavericks bonded, not simply as therapist and patient, but as friends united by their personal experiences as outsiders. Arnaud Desplechin’s extraordinarily intelligent and moving adaptation of Georges Devereux’s landmark work of ethnographicpsychoanalysis stars Benecio Del Toro as the titular Jimmy P, a Blackfoot Indian and World War II veteran suffering from what initially seems like severe posttraumatic stress, and Mathieu Amalric as Devereux, a Hungarian Jew who reinvented himself many times over before coming to the US to study Mohave Indian culture. Both actors are at the top of their game and their interaction makes the best case for the “Talking Cure” ever depicted in a fiction film.