GROUP THERAPY (Tribeca 2024) – Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

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We all know how it plays out on social media when self-proclaimed Facebook and X judges condemn famous people for their struggles with addiction and mental health. No disease differentiates between rich and poor, famous and ordinary. We don’t have to look far: Robin Williams, the beloved late actor and comedian, brought so much laughter to the world. Yet, no one is immune to the struggles of mental health. It’s true, it’s real, and it’s a pandemic. But can it be treated?

Group Therapy, directed by Neil Berkeley, brings together six comedians—Neil Patrick Harris, Tig Notaro, Mike Birbiglia, London Hughes, Gary Gulman, and Atsuko Okatsuka—to discuss the intersection of comedy and mental health. Each of them shares their personal stories, their struggles with mental health, and how they use comedy as a form of therapy. It’s a profound look at the deep and troublesome nature of mental health issues and the immense courage required to stay afloat. Frankly, it’s not easy to overcome.

The documentary begins with Neil Patrick Harris gathering everyone in one room for a group therapy session, where the comedians openly discuss their stories—unfiltered. This brutal honesty will resonate deeply with the audience. It can also be triggering, so if you or someone you know struggles with mental health, I would advise caution when watching it. However, if you suspect someone struggles quietly, the film offers insights that might help save a life.

Due to its heavy subject matter, Group Therapy may not attract a wide audience, but it will resonate with those who do watch. We cannot judge those whose pain we do not understand. The film offers empathy and recognition of this heartbreaking disease and shows that, regardless of financial status, depression can affect anyone. It’s a battle of minds, and Group Therapy demonstrates that depression is not as powerful as it seems, though overcoming it is not easy.

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Ulkar Alakbarova

Ulkar Alakbarova has been writing about movies since childhood. She loves black-and-white cinema. She worked as an independent film journalist in Azerbaijan. Starting in 2013, she has worked as a Toronto-based film critic/interviewer. She is a founder of and regularly covers major film festivals, such as TIFF, Fantasia Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Hot Docs and Sundance.