Patrick Malahide as Headmaster in Like Minds

Headmaster leading assembly.

Headmaster leading assembly.

In 2006 Patrick Malahide played the part of Dr. Forbes in Like Minds.  My DVD is called Murderous Intent, but I don’t like that title quite as much so I’ll stick with Like Minds.

Dr. Forbes is headmaster of a boarding school.  His son Alex (Eddie Redmayne), one of the “like minds” referenced in the title, is a very troubled young man who has been implicated in three deaths including the possible murder (Or was it a suicide made to look like murder?) of his “best friend’ Nigel Colbie (Tom Sturridge).

This is a very good film full of twists and turns.  Themes such as Gestalt theory, the merging of minds, eternity and the history/mythology of the Knights Templar (including the very creepy story of Maraclea) play a big part, all as seen through the eyes of extremely disturbed teenage boys.  I’ll try not to give too many spoilers, but there will be some.

Director’s First Choice

Naturally, Patrick Malahide is especially excellent.  He was director Gregory Read‘s first choice for the headmaster role.  From the DVD commentary provided by Mr. Read and composer Carlo Giacco:

Read: He sat across from me and it was like he was headmaster.  It was frightening.

Alex: "I don't have time for this bullshit."

One scary headmaster!

Giacco: He’s the perfect headmaster; he’s fantastic.

Read: He’s a lovely bloke.

Giacco: I feel frightened of him. (laughs)

Read: Well, I wanted that stern and that rigid kind of look but also someone who could fracture.  I think he does that so well in this film. Again, it’s a subtlety of performance.

Awww, I’m sure he’s more lovely than frightening. 🙂  Anyway, Dr. Forbes is very much as they described.  With a gruff Scottish accent, beautiful flowing robe, and stern military-esque deportment he comes across as the exact sort of man you would want heading a boys’ boarding school.

Disruptive Son and Freaky New Boy

Sends them to his office after assembly.

Sends them to his office after assembly.

But, during assembly we see that he doesn’t have control over his own son who is chatting with his friend Josh (Jon Overton).  He sends the boys to his office after assembly where Alex is confrontational and angry.  Alex has just learned that he is to have a room-mate, Nigel, something he’s never experienced before.  There is a lot of tension between father and son as they vie for control.

"Good God!"

“Good God!”

Alex continues pushing buttons by antagonizing theological professor, Rev. Donaldson (Hugh Sachs) over Thomas Becket and the Knights Templar.  He is sent out of class and his father catches up to him before he enters his dorm room.  “Alex! He is a man of the cloth.  You must learn to show him some respect. (Alex opens the door.)  Don’t run away while I’m talking to you. (pauses and stares at something) Good God!”  I love that bit.  That is when they see exactly what weird Nigel has been up to in the dorm room.  Obsessed with taxidermy, Nigel has set up his own animal embalming lab.



But, Dr. Forbes’ disgust is short lived as he insists Nigel be made welcome.  Nigel’s father is an important member, along with Dr. Forbes, in a  secret society descended from the Templars but is now basically just a business lodge.   They continue arguing until Dr. Forbes explodes and slaps his son across the face.  I think Eddie Redmayne lost a few freckles there 😉  This is a huge mistake on Dr. Forbes’ part because he should have took that chance to get rid of Nigel before he could burn his way into Alex’s mind.

Dr. Forbes’ World Falls Apart

Telling the boys about Susan Mueller.

Telling the boys about Susan Mueller.

Dr. Forbes’ world continues to spin out of control.  A nearby school is collaborating with his on the Tennyson play about Thomas Becket.  A beautiful girl from the other school, Susan Mueller (Kate Maberly) is murdered.  Alex had been very interested in her and they’d planned a date which he missed because he couldn’t get there on time.

Dr. Forbes’ loss of control is especially noticeable as he interacts with the criminal investigators.  Forensic psychologist Sally Rowe (Toni Collette) is tasked to decide if she thinks Alex should be charged with Nigel’s murder.  She wants to talk to Dr. Forbes, but he proves elusive.  They finally meet in a parking garage.  Her car won’t start and as she’s working on it he approaches her offering help.  At first she is startled but she knows her cars so he starts to leave just as she recognizes him.

"What is it you want Miss Rowe?"

“What is it you want Miss Rowe?”

Sally wants to talk to him and his wife, but Dr. Forbes informs her that Alex’s mother died a long time ago.  He defends his parenting: “Alex’s upbringing has been impeccable.  My son has one of the highest academic records in the country.  Boys of Alex’s ability need regimented discipline.  We don’t allow any distraction which might lead these boys away from their true potential.”  (I like that bit because I expect that is what Dr. Forbes says to parents considering sending their sons to his academy.)  Rowe: “And look where he is now.”

Defending Alex's upbringing.

Defending Alex’s upbringing.

Ouch!  That was harsh.  Dr. Forbes’ intake of breath is like a hiss as he fights for control.  “Why can’t you people help Alex instead of trying to convict him of something he didn’t do, for the love of Christ?”  Sally says she’s trying to help.  “I love my son…and I want to make very sure that the humiliation you people have subjected him to is made public.” He is sincere about loving his son, but after his pause he hardens himself and is hostile again.

McKenzie won't help.

McKenzie won’t help.

His meetings with investigating officer Martin McKenzie (Richard Roxburgh) are even worse.  McKenzie, like his father before him, is a member of the Templar society.  Dr. Forbes tries to use that to his advantage in hopes that McKenzie will let Alex go.  Convinced of Alex’s guilt McKenzie coldly refuses.

Is He Losing His Son?

Intense stares.

Intense stares.

Dr. Forbes tries talking to Alex who is now in police custody.  I really feel sorry for Dr. Forbes because it is blatantly obvious that there is absolutely no way for him to connect to his son.  He grabs Alex’s chin to look him in the eye, but he sees nothing there for him.  Alex wins the stare down, and Dr. Forbes gets ready to leave…his expression showing  the disgust and fear he feels over his own son.

Alex: "No, no, got her pregnant."

Alex: “No, no, no…you got her pregnant.”

That is when Alex twists the knife.  Alex: “What was my mother like? Do you regret her sacrifice.  Was it worth it.”  Dr. Forbes: “Alex, your mother’s death was not your fault.”  Alex: “No.  No, no, no.  You got her pregnant.”  Wow!

McKenzie then enters the room, visiting time is over.  Dr. Forbes: “Alex, all I ever wanted was the best for you….for the sake of your mother.”  Alex remains silent.  In those moments of quiet there is a lot of silent acting from both Mr. Malahide and Mr. Redmayne with one looking broken and other completely indifferent to the suffering he is inflicting.

Left all alone.

Left all alone.

As Dr. Forbes walks out of the room, McKenzie can’t resist getting one more slap in. “Well, that went well.  Do you ever get the feeling you’re responsible for all this?”  McKenzie is clicking his secret society lighter as he speaks and then puts it in Forbes’ pocket, “I don’t think I need that anymore,” signifying his break from the Templar lodge and solidifying Dr. Forbes’ feeling of being completely unable to help his son despite status and connections.


"Alex, all I ever wanted wanted was the best for you....for the sake of your mother."

“Alex, all I ever wanted wanted was the best for you….for the sake of your mother.”

Patrick Malahide’s performance in this film is amazing.  His character is extremely sympathetic.  He goes from stern authoritarian to broken father very quickly and fluidly.  No wonder Gregory Read had him in mind from the get go.

And here is a little clip from the “Making of” extra.  It is of Mr. Malahide talking about the weather issue of filming in two vastly different locations: Australia and Yorkshire.  As RFodchuk has pointed out to me, he looks really good in that coat he is referencing.



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