Updated: Aug 25
It's hard to make a film with the main focus being on mental health, there is a huge stereotype around them. We've all seen it, the opening starts with the alarm clock going off and the lead's still in bed. Then a not-so-glamorous slow montage of her brushing her teeth, eating breakfast, taking her dog out. It can easily make for a predictable plot if the story is not written from a new lens. It is difficult to pull off, but that just makes the great ones so special. Here's to a few who got it just right.
1. Lars and the Real Girl
Where to stream: Available for rental
When I think of a wholesome, sweet movie, this is what I think of. Ryan Gosling plays as Lars, who suffers from schizoid personality disorder. He doesn't have much, if any, desire to go out and spend time with friends or family, and is not interested in dating - until he purchases a realistic sex doll (Bianca) and starts referring to her as his girlfriend. He falls in love with the doll and takes her everywhere - bowling, church, shopping. The film shows his very real relationship with a very silicone, plastic doll, and it's both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch. For people with SPD, it’s important to remember not to force a relationship on them, whether that be familial, romantically, or friendship. In the film, Lars is very content with his relationship with Bianca, and she is in his life for a reason.
2. Silver Linings Playbook
Where to stream: Netflix
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook is such a great depiction of Bipolar Disorder. Bradley Cooper plays a man who has spent time in a psychiatric hospital for his BD and has recently moved back in with his parents. He then meets Tiffany, (Jeniffer Lawrence) and she agrees to help him find his wife while he agrees to dance with her in a competition. He very accurately shows his manic episodes, which are far more shown than his depressive. Tiffany also struggles with mental illness, although it is not stated in the film which one. It’s interesting to see the two work together and help each other in their mental health.
Where to stream: Available for rental
Split has been categorized as a highly controversial film. Is it accurate? Does it show a false interpretation of DID? Is the human body actually capable of transforming into a beast? To those questions I would say: somewhat, yes and no, and not exactly. Split follows a man diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder who kidnaps girls and keeps them in his home in anticipation of the beast to arrive. His different personalities come out and each has their own thoughts, characteristics, and presence. Although the film can be exaggerated at times, he plays the personalities accurately. The body transforms to fit each personality, with a change in vocal tone, and having an individual opinion and making their own actions are all very real. However, it is important to remember that this is a thriller that will exaggerate some components in order to make it more heart-racing. It’s important to differentiate real DID and film DID.
4. Donnie Darko
Where to stream: Tubi
Donnie Darko is initially a fascinating film about time travel, but when deeply analyzed, it’s clear that the main character is dealing with schizophrenia. It is not an easy watch, with an ending that leaves everyone questioning: “What did I just watch?”. Taking place in 1988, Donnie Darko sleepwalks outside to see an incredibly scary looking rabbit who tells him the world is ending. We are unsure of what’s real, what’s made up. The most exciting thing is that are numerous theories that you can think about each viewing, so every time you watch it, it can be perceived so differently.
5. Little Miss Sunshine
Where to stream: Hulu
Ah, Little Miss Sunshine. What a great movie. I know I'm saying that about all these films on this list, but wow. This movie portrays depression, suicidal thoughts/actions, body image, drug abuse, grief. And they do each one well. An all-star cast supports this movie about a family taking a road trip to a pageant in California to support their daughter's dreams of becoming Little Miss Sunshine. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking, it’s inspiring. I can't really put into words how wonderful this movie is.
These are some of my favorite movies when it comes to mental health, what are yours? Leave a comment below on what you would like to read about next.
All the love,
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