Thursday, November 9

Streamathon - Mental Health Issues (Nov. 2017)


Mental Health Issues (November 2017)

Preface: This is part of an ongoing blog series of curated movie marathons that are thematically or otherwise tied together. The other common factor tying these films together will be their availability to watch them all from the comfort of your own home on various streaming platforms. The goal is that writing this blog will somehow justify the excessive number of streaming platforms I subscribe to. The films will be found on some combination of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Mubi, FilmStruck, Shudder and/or Fandor. These titles will be available for the month that the blog is published. All of these subscriptions offer free trials so feel free to dive in and follow along… Have fun. Just don’t message me for my login information.

By: Emery Martin-Snyder

Mental health is quite frankly not something that is openly discussed enough. There is a very unfortunate stigma attached to mental health that makes is difficult for most to open up. I’m not trying to say anything too profound here, I actually just happened upon a very good crop of films this month that deal with this topic so I thought I’d share.

These issues have been a staple in cinema for a very long time, especially in horror. These ailments have been the catalyst for a wide variety of deranged killers like Peter Lorre’s character in Fritz Lang’s masterpiece M (1931). Or even earlier than that, they have been used to create an unreliable narrator like the one in Robert Wiene’s THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920). Other genres tie in the illness to serve family dramas that tell heartfelt stories such as Lasse Hallstöm’s WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE (’93) or Barry Levinson’s RAIN MAIN (’88).

The Stream

BENNY & JOON (1993) 
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik – Streaming on Hulu

We’ll start off pretty light with some Buster Keaton stylings via Johnny Depp and his quirky performance. Mary Stuart Masterson plays Joon, a young woman afflicted with schizophrenia that can’t be left to take care of herself. She eventually ends up in a group home where she meets Johnny Depp’s character, Sam. I’m sure most thirty-somethings have at least a nostalgic affinity for this film. It’s worth a second look. Depp’s performance is so much fun to watch and I appreciate how it lets the character’s personalities and charisma breathe through the plot. It’s pretty sweet.

Directed by Jeff Nichols – Streaming on Shutter
This film has some scary moments but don’t let the fact that it’s currently streaming on Shudder fool you into thinking it’s a horror film. It’s a beautiful family drama that I think it criminally underseen. Michael Shannon plays a man with a family history of paranoid schizophrenia that may or may not be succumbing to his illness. Sometimes the beauty of a film is in its isolation. This isolation comes from the perspective of the character that the story is being told from. When the two possible outcomes of the story are apocalyptic doom or total mental collapse, it’s hard to decide which would be worse. Both will lead to the end of the world as we (the audience) know it. This film is tense, depressing, hopeful and beautiful and everyone should see it.

Directed by Ingmar Bergman – Streaming on FilmStruck

I was tempted to leave this film off of this list because when I first saw it, I had no idea what it was about. And I think that was probably a little more effective. Harriet Andersson pulls together one of her many amazing performances for Bergman. I think this is her best by far though. Her depiction is one of the desperation of a woman perfectly aware of her own condition yet powerless to do anything about it. Be warned, this is not the happiest film you will ever see. It’s devastating… and beautiful.

THE VOICES (2014) 
Directed by Marjane Satrapi – Streaming on Netflix

Speaking of great performances, this is Ryan Reynolds’ best work. He is on another level with this one. He plays a man battling with schizophrenia who takes his queues from his talking cat and dog (also voiced by Reynolds.) Although this picture starts out as an absurdist dark comedy, it very quickly turns extra dark. This really works for me.

Directed by Lynn Ramsay – Streaming on Netflix

If there’s ever been a cinematic call to action for more openness and discussion about mental health, this would be it. This film tells the story of a disturbed teenager with sociopathic tendencies through a series of flashbacks experienced by his mother. Unfortunately, we realize very quickly that the time for intervention has passed. This picture is shot beautifully with just a touch of surrealism that you find typical of Lynn Ramsay’s work. Often times punishing, I wouldn’t tell you to watch this if I didn’t think it was rewarding.

Directed by Frank Oz – Streaming on Hulu

I bookended this marathon with some pretty light choices. That’s because I do them alphabetically but let’s just pretend that I had a greater design in mind. This film should work as the perfect palate cleanser after the emotional punishment endured by the rest of this list. Bill Murray plays an anxiety riddled patient of Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss)…hilarity ensues. I don’t really know if this film passes 2017’s sensitivity test in reference to its treatment of the multitude of anxieties and phobias discussed here but you know, it’s Bill Murray acting goofy for 90 minutes. Let’s just say that this one’s in here for your mental health.

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