MENTAL HEALTH IN FILM
A selection of gems that tackle mental health issues with insight and wit.
The Skeleton Twins (Dir. Craig Johnson, 2014) Featuring an Oscar-worthy performance from SNL favourite
Bill Hader, Craig Johnson’s dramedy The Skeleton Twins isn’t exceptional because of its subject matter. A story about estranged twins reunited after struggles with depression, it may be an often hilariously funny dramedy – but it also has an emotional honesty and stunning realism that elevates it into something special. Hader is simply sublime as
Milo, a gay waiter terrified he may have peaked in high-school. His hilariously biting wit barely conceals the raw pain lingering underneath. As he self-destructs by attempting suicide, drinking heavily and rekindling abusive relationships, there are so many glimpses of the wounded boy in him; a broken child scrambling for love and validation in all the wrong places. Kristen Wiig is also fantastic as Maggie, a woman with all the trappings of a perfect life, but who has a selfdestructive streak of her own. Wiig and Hader’s chemistry is impeccable, and the film’s depiction of sibling bonds and mental illness feels wonderfully authentic.
Bridesmaids (Dir. Paul Feig, 2011)
It’s hard to think of a raunchy Judd Apatow comedy as a beautiful meditation on depression, and yet Bridesmaids nailed it. Annie (Kristen Wiig) is in an incredibly hard place and can’t pull herself out of it. She’s freshly broken up with, financially troubled and jealous of what others have. Watching her best friend find her own happiness as she gets married should be wonderful, but it’s all the more painful to be left behind. The stand-out scene is between Annie and Megan (Melissa McCarthy), in which the latter literally pushes Annie out of her funk. She manifests Annie’s depression physically, pushing her around and telling her she’s worthless. It’s as striking and powerful a portrayal of what it feels like for a person living with depression as we can remember – but the most vital part of the scene is when Annie tells Megan she has no friends, to which Megan replies “You have a friend, me, standing right in front of you.” A perfect example of the way depression can completely warp our perception of ourselves.
Edge Of Seventeen (Dir. Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016) In Edge Of Seventeen, Hailee Steinfeld gives a piercingly intelligent and winning performance as Nadine, who just never feels like she fits – a fact exacerbated by the effortless cool of her older brother (Blake
Jenner). When her best friend and brother start dating, she feels even more isolated, and begins to tap into the pain of losing her father a few years previously. Nadine, even through her struggles, is whipsmart and funny, and there are plenty of laughs as Nadine stumbles through parties, dates and dealing with her mother.
But writer-director Kelly Fremon
Craig taps into something deeper too; how tricky it is for young people to express the difference between everyday teen angst and real struggles. Funny, moving and heartwrenchingly relatable.
Lars And The Real Girl| (Dir. Craig Gillespie, 2007) In this funny and thoughtful indie dramedy, Ryan Gosling portrays a socially awkward young man named Lars, who builds a romantic relationship with a sex doll named Bianca. This sounds like either an R-rated comedy or a disturbing story, but on the contrary, Lars’ story is warm and empathetic and showcases how important community and family are comes recovering from a mental illness or nervous breakdown. Lars’ relationship with Bianca is an odd coping mechanism for severe social anxiety, abandonment issues and a fear of intimacy, but what ultimately helps him is how his community’s support allows him to use Bianca to build relationships with other people. A touching film with stellar performances.
MENTAL HEALTH SPECIAL SUPPORTING WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY 10 OCTOBER