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Can You Hear Me Thinking?

Monty Haltrecht and Beverley Marcus
Part of The Judi Dench Collection
(2008)

This 1990 drama features not only Dame Judi Dench but also her husband Michael Williams, with whom she appeared for so long in A Fine Romance.

The film opens dramatically, following a happy, family game of cards as the well-to-do couple's son Danny, played by Richard Henders, collapses at the crease during a school cricket match. Rather than being hit by a beamer, his assailant is somewhat nastier if more subtle - schizophrenia.

Christopher Morahan's production explores the stresses put on a family when their almost 17-year-old son walks out on his boarding school and a normal life. Father Kevin, played by Williams, is sternness personified, while his wife tries her best to be patient and understanding. The boy's younger brother and sister also provide support beyond any reason expectation.

Danny's problem manifests itself in totally irrational behaviour and also a slightly sinister interest in God, exacerbated by his own messianic tendencies. After he attacks his mother with a carving knife, there is no choice but to exchange his boarding school for a psychiatric institution.

Eventually, cracks begin to appear as the strain becomes too much for every member of the family. Danny's illness also affects their lives in more tangential ways, preventing his father, a highflying architect, from taking a job that will further his career.

The film allows the husband-and-wife acting team to show off their skills, but the true star is Richard Henders who really gets under the skin of a troubled youngster in a convincing performance full of pathos.

Can You Hear Me Thinking? may not have helped its audience to understand what causes schizophrenia but it certainly proves to be a damning indictment of the policy of Care in the Community. This might well have been the primary reason why it was written and broadcast in the first place.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher