Dr. Yamamoto Masatomo is seeing patients. The woman who enters his office recounts, completely distraught, how she wanted to kill herself the previous night because her friends have abandoned her. Dr. Yamamoto tells her to ask her friends why they abandoned her – and promptly calls for the next patient. At first the doctor comes across as a callous old codger whose licence should be taken away, perhaps because he's too old to be any good at his job. But by the end of the film, which observes over a lengthy period the doctor, his working method, the patients and the staff at his outpatient mental health clinic Chorale Okayama in Japan, you want to kneel in reverence before this man whom his patients compare with Buddha.
Mental is at the same time a simple and yet monumental documentary film. With a high degree of empathy with people who suffer from mental illness, the director manages to present this special clinic as a microcosm in which all the fundamental questions of our time are asked. The film gives no answers; rather it is a humanist appeal – and an unusual declaration of love to the civilizing secrets of Japanese culture.