Meetings with Ivor – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Alan Gilsenan
The “Ivor” of the title is Ivor Browne, the well-known Irish psychiatrist. The documentary has substantial commentary by Ivor but also includes talks with Mary Coughlan, Tommy Tiernan, Sebastian Barry, Tom Murphy, Nell McCafferty and Professor Brendan Kelly of Trinity.
In the course of these talks and his own commentary he reveals insights into his way of thinking, of his own past and the methods he employed to help professionally individuals when they came to him for help. He is now 87 years of age and retired but he has a relevance for each of the persons with whom he talks. Whatever relationship he may have had with each of these individuals in the past, in the meetings, he speaks to them with an easy intimacy.
He also speaks about his own family life. He was the youngest of three and his father referred to him as “a mistake”. He describes the lack of physical warmth in his childhood but yet his father created a magical world by the sea in a field in Sandycove for his three children. His own medical career, his successes and some of the inevitable less successful moments are aired as well as his personal life, the successes and the failures. He is critical of man’s activities on this planet which continues to concern him even though he is an octogenarian. He is a man who did not fit easily into any mould throughout his life but yet gained professional success within his own career at the highest level.
However, it is the talks with his various interviewees which are the kernel of this reflective documentary of an Irishman who focused on the unsettling world of treatment of psychiatric patients and individuals with transitory mental health problems. It would be invidious to highlight one interview over another as any such choice is likely to be idiosyncratic. Each has a value and contributed to a better understanding of Ivor and his own complexities. But it is difficult to know whether what is portrayed is a good likeness of him.
Certainly in the meetings there is a generosity of spirit which is reassuring. Gilsenan and the producer Tomás Hardiman has done Ireland a service in giving prominence through Ivor Browne’s story of the relevance and importance of mental health.