I have a confession.
I hate virtual medicine. I hate virtual counseling. I hate virtual physician appointments. I tolerate virtual church, though even it pales in comparison to the real thing (and, somewhat ironically, I even was on the planting team for a virtual church).
So, it was with a sense of morbid curiosity that I checked out the latest from Timothy J. Cox, this time also co-directed by Jamie Cox, Live Health, a nine-minute short film starring Cox as Dr. Peter Marcus, a therapist resigned to virtual consults amidst a pandemic that has restricted face-to-face appointments.
In some ways, Live Health reminded me of everything I hate about the virtual health arena. However, it also allowed me to view it through the lens of the therapist, a clinically skilled and naturally empathetic human being working to connect with people who are bearing their souls like Caroline (Nancy Kellogg Gray), Jason (Matthew Harris), Lincoln (Bob Rutan), and Sara (Becca Robinson). Their stories manifest naturally, quite literally, as dialogue was improvised by the cast based upon Cox's own story idea. The resulting scenarios unfold with heart and discomfort and vulnerabilityand a vividly realized bond between therapist and patient partly owing to Cox's own active listening skills and the willingness of this ensemble to really go for it.
Cox, an indie vet of stage and film, is ideally suited to this kind of role with his invested physicality and ability to say much with very little dialogue. One senses the emotional demand this therapy places on Dr. Marcus and I found myself particularly noticing Dr. Cox's practical dismissal of the commonly used question "How are you?" when spoken by his clients. The stories that unfold here are believable in how they manifest, from unresolved issues around sexual abuse to parenting a child whose choices you simply can't seem to fathom. All four stories are compelling and come through as emotionally honest.
As Dr. Marcus, Cox seems particularly muted in a realistic way that lets us know the pandemic has had an influence on him and he's caught somewhere between burnout and his own sense of isolation. You can't help but wonder if he has his own therapist and, if not, you can't help but wish he'd get one.
Matthew Mahler's original music is quietly impactful. Jamie Cox's lensing for the film gives the story its needed intimacy.
I don't like virtual therapy. I had a single virtual session with my primary care physician and I told her, quite bluntly, "Never again!" Perhaps it is my own theatrical background, but I simply require a level of connection I've never really found virtually despite the fact that I am, in fact, a social media-obsessed human being who finds the web a wonderful place.
It simply has its limits.
These limits come to life in Live Health, though Live Health also brings to life the benefits of human connection however we can get it at a weird time in history when human connection is so damn hard to acquire for some folks including those who hurt and those who help. With honesty and insight, Live Health brings this all to life.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic