Humans possess an extraordinary strength to experience emotions, which sets us apart from all other living beings on Earth. Besides granting us immense power, this ability exposes us to vulnerability. Our emotions propel us to great heights, motivating and inspiring us to do better, but sometimes they get the better of us. In the past, our understanding of emotional well-being was limited. So, extreme and uncontrolled emotional outbursts were often labeled “lunacy.” Fortunately, with time, the rigidity regarding understanding emotional outbursts has become flexible. People have realized that we have a different emotional landscape, which makes us unique. Our emotions are intricately intertwined with our mental health, and they exert a profound impact on us. So, many of us visit a psychiatrist or a consultant to discuss our emotional upheavals, for they affect our well-being. A consultant helps us by creating a safe space where we can process our emotions and mental turmoil. But what if the individual entrusted with the responsibility of establishing a secure environment is lacking in safety themselves? This is precisely what director and writer Ignacio Maiso’s The Consultant is about.
David, The Consultant
While we don’t deny that consultants are human beings who also require a safe space to process their emotions, it is unlikely that they would allow their emotions to overpower them while they are in a session with their clients. However, from the very beginning of the film, it was evident that David was distressed about something. What is particularly striking about his office is that he positions himself near the exit while his clients sit across from him. Typically, the setting is the opposite, with the consultant sitting across the room, creating an inviting atmosphere for the client to enter a safe space. In this case, it seems that Dave is the one awaiting his clients to shed light on his thoughts and emotions. He appears inattentive and lost in his thoughts, and it feels as though he is relying on his clients to provide him with counsel.
David is married to Sharon, who is ill and spends most of her days in bed. It appears that Dave is caught in a repetitive loop with her, as evidenced by the plate of food and the pills. Unfortunately, Sharon passed away, and it seemed that David was shocked and moved by the incident. Although it is not abnormal for a husband to mourn his deceased wife, David kept avoiding conversations about her as if he wanted no one to know. Furthermore, David seemed to be paranoid. He felt threatened by the food delivery person when he walked inside David’s home to collect payment. David’s behavior seemed out of the ordinary. He was showing signs of prominent anxiety where he could not eat or sleep. To worsen the situation, he began hallucinating his dead wife. As the film unfolds, there is a growing sense that David’s clients are figments of his imagination, similar to how he hallucinates interactions with Sharon. This left us with the impression that David is suffering from schizophrenia. It appeared that he was conjuring up conversations that were born out of suppressed emotions that he had buried deep within his heart.
David’s clients consisted of Kate, Mike, and John, each grappling with emotional disturbances ranging from lying and cheating to obsession. However, for David, their stories seemed eerily reminiscent of three significant events that had occurred in his own life. Thus, a fear loomed in David’s mind about whether his clients genuinely sought his guidance or were deliberately orchestrating a scheme to uncover his truths.
One of his oldest female clients, Kate, initially sought his advice regarding her failed relationship. However, Kate engaged in a prolonged affair with David and cheated on her partner, John. Strikingly, David appeared to bury this particular aspect when Kate returned after spending four years away with her husband. Yet her presence seemed to evoke a sense of fear in David. Furthermore, Kate was intimated by her elder sister, who had been popular among boys since a very young age. Kate was jealous and blamed her sister for her broken marriage and unhappy life.
Another client of David’s was John, who, like David, was a psychiatrist but had ceased practicing. John faced his own set of challenges, including marital and financial difficulties, and he confessed to having an affair with one of his students. Unfortunately, when news of their affair started to circulate, the girl’s father, a well-known psychiatrist, intervened and took her away, severing all contact between John and his student. He also suspected that his wife was cheating on him with several other men, especially a psychiatrist.
David’s final client was Mike, a police officer characterized by his obsessive nature and volatile temper. He found himself deeply infatuated with a stunning woman. The infatuation grew stronger, and Mike decided to willingly abandon his wife and daughter for her. However, on the night they planned to elope, his lover unexpectedly approached him, confessing that she couldn’t bring herself to hurt her husband in that manner. This revelation left Mike anguished and filled with anger. Additionally, Mike became entangled in a case involving a wealthy individual, where he firmly believed that the husband had murdered his wife. Unfortunately, the husband’s influential connections within the department led to his wife’s death being classified as a suicide. Yet, consumed by his obsession, Mike resorted to stalking the husband, which ultimately backfired for him.
The Surreal Connections
Sharon had been David’s patient for a long time before he found himself deeply infatuated with her. Choosing to start a new life with Sharon, David left his former wife and abandoned his daughter. Initially, being with Sharon felt like a dream come true for David. However, their relationship took a tumultuous turn when Sharon confessed to having cheated on him. Despite his anger, David forgave her. Unfortunately, Sharon continued to engage in multiple physical relationships and justified her infidelities to David by confessing her love for him. Somehow she managed to persuade David that these physical affairs held no significance and even encouraged him to explore physical relationships with other women. It was during this time that David found himself inexplicably drawn to his female clients, forming connections that exceeded his professional boundaries. It was during this period that his relationship with Kate began to surface.
David’s relationship with his daughter was strained as he moved out with Sharon. However, when she became involved with a college professor, David had to intervene and separate her from that situation. Meanwhile, it is revealed in the film that Sharon’s death was officially classified as a suicide. In truth, it was David who slowly planned her death. He devised the plan to murder Sharon out of fear of abandonment and jealousy. Although David and Sharon had an open marriage, he believed that Sharon was deeply in love with him. However, when Sharon confessed to having met someone else and falling in love, David was disillusioned and desperate to retain her. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing Sharon, yet he could not prevent her from going away.
Unfortunately, soon after Sharon’s plan to leave David, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and spent most of her time in bed. David took on the role of her caregiver. However, as Sharon began to regain her strength and expressed her desire to leave David’s residence, he resorted to poisoning her food by secretly adding life-threatening drugs. Eventually, on a day when Sharon was still bedridden and unwell, she expressed gratitude to David for his care but revealed her intention to move out. Seizing the opportunity, David heavily drugged her. Tragically, Sharon’s life came to an end due to an overdose of pills. But David got away with the murder.
David’s narrative is insanely parallel to the experiences shared by his clients. This, on the one hand, lends a sense of validation to his deep-seated paranoia and, on the other, solidifies our suspicion. The weight of guilt, an overwhelming emotion, relentlessly pursued David at every sign that he suffered from schizophrenia. David’s nightmare was another aspect that confirmed our understanding of David’s psychic abilities.
‘The Consultant’ Ending
Ultimately, David gathers his three clients in his office, where he confesses to his crime. Consumed by despair, he ingests a handful of pills, tragically ending his own life. However, as the film comes to an end, it reveals that the three characters were indeed real individuals. While they had experienced comparable hardships in their lives, their stories diverged significantly from what David’s paranoid mind had perceived. These three individuals were not mere fragments of a singular puzzle; rather, they belonged to distinct puzzle sets that David failed to comprehend. The film also highlights the profound impact that guilt can have on our minds. The film is skillfully crafted and shows us the immense potential of the director.