Characters are too cold to care about in 'Altered Minds'

  • A father (Judd Hirsch) denies he used his adopted children in mind-control experiments in the psychological drama "Altered Minds."

    A father (Judd Hirsch) denies he used his adopted children in mind-control experiments in the psychological drama "Altered Minds."

 
 
Updated 11/19/2015 11:34 AM

Michael Z. Wechsler's psychological drama "Altered Minds" reminds me of many plays I encountered in college, some very serious works of drama in which people in a confined area confront some sinister, underlying problem that has eaten away at their lives until finally, finally, it can't be ignored anymore!

They spill the beans!

 

They spill their guts!

They twist and shout while experiencing Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget's "disequilibrium" until the truth comes along to set everyone free, relatively speaking.

"Altered Minds" does all that, with the addition of unbelievably beautiful footage of outdoor winter scenes captured in monochromatic splendor with the coldest images on film since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1."

The setting is a reunion of a family headed by Judd Hirsch's Dr. Shellner, a respected psychiatrist rumored to have conducted some shady experiments for the CIA back in the good old days of the Cold War.

Schellner's house still boasts the bomb shelter built during the Cuban missile crisis. Of course.

All of Schellner's children are adopted, except for Leonard (Joseph Lyle Taylor). This fact comes into play as the family reels from accusations by successful horror-novelist son Tommy (Ryan O'Nan) that Dad adopted his kids just so he could use them as guinea pigs in mind-control experiments.

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Dramatically, "Altered Minds" is as cold as the snowy outdoors with emotionally inaccessible characters difficult for us to empathize with, even Dad, who's dying of cancer.

"If a man fails his family, he fails life!" Dr. Shellner says.

At the end of "Altered Minds," I'm not real sure if he didn't.

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