David and Lisa – Frank Perry – 1962


David and Lisa CoverOriginal title: David and Lisa
Rating: 4.0 Stars
Year: 1962
Directors: Frank Perry
Duration: 95 min.
Genres: Drama

David and Lisa

What do you see? What do you see when you’re reading me, what do you see? A silly rhyme you say, that’s what I see. A silly rhyme maybe, but don’t you dare click away! Because it may sound a little goofy, but David and Lisa is a pearl of a movie.

So there’s an odd introduction to a film. It one stars Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Janet Margolin (Annie Hall) as David and Lisa. Two children each with their own set of mental problems. When they meet they slowly start forming a very special bond, while both are also struggling to finds ways to deal with their issues. So who are they?

Starting off with David, he is probably the single most obnoxious person I have ever seen on film. At least in the first parts of the film. Despite his character I found myself actually liking him at some point. David isn’t what you would call a normal person. From what I can gather he has Haphephobia – the fear of being touched, I looked that up – and numerous other issues like hyper intelligence. I suppose you could compare him to TBBT’s Sheldon Cooper. There are quite a few similarities between the two.

Lisa is a schizophrenic. Sometimes she is Lisa, sometimes she is Muriel. She can only be the nice, playful Lisa when she rhymes. If she doesn’t rhyme, she is or will become Muriel, who doesn’t seem to be very nice. Lisa has other issues, but the amateur psychologist in me has no idea what. At some point in a museum she hugs a statue of a naked woman for some reason. My guess is she’s missing a mother figure, as the school staff seems to be almost all male. The film is intentionally vague about what exactly is the problem with both David and Lisa. It’s not all that important. I’m also guessing that the film is about as scientifically accurate as I am, but meh, who cares.

David and Lisa

The film starts with David and his mother arriving at some new school. David is being his obnoxious self to everyone. It seems weird, but soon we learn that this is not a normal school, but a school for ‘special’ people. Remember that it was 1962 when this film was made, and so our views of how to deal with these people is very different from what happens in the film. The school still resembles a normal one, in that it has a playground, they teach math and English, have trips to the museum etc. There are a few doctors and psychiatrists who also try to teach the children.

David doesn’t care much for the other children, but does take a liking to Lisa. He probably wouldn’t want to admit as much though. David also forms a bond with doctor Alan Swinford (Howard da Silva – The Lost Weekend). He is the one who slowly tries to help David with his mental state. David, in turn, slowly seems to be getting through to Lisa. She seems to have taken a liking to David, but given their mental problems it is not easy for them to really bond.

If you like a good story and solid acting, do watch David and Lisa. The story is very touching and deals with very basic human traits like trust, friendship and bonding. The psychiatric angle might be a little outdated by today’s standards, but I found it easy to put that aside. It may even add some drama, for instance when David’s mother keeps telling herself her son is fine and should be going to a good school like Princeton, instead of this place. The film was made on a budget of under 200k, but it doesn’t show. Finally, a little fun fact. See the blurry statue in the top right corner? Look familiar?

David and Lisa

David and Lisa - RockyLooks like mr. Balboa wasn’t the first one to rush up those stairs 🙂

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