2 Great New Movies about Mental Illness

Silver Linings Playbook
Silver Linings Playbook

Just in time for the holidays, there are two awesome new films about mental illness.

I just saw Silver Linings Playbook and The Master. Both of these films show the journey from destructive madness to precarious sanity. The films show the impossible internal tide as Pat, Bradley Cooper, and Freddy, Joaquin Phoenix, descend (ascend) into their altered states and try to get back to life again.

The movies made me wonder about something I read a long time from Carl Jung. I am paraphrasing, but the idea from Jung, is that: Maybe it’s not these individuals who are mad, but their societies are insane.

Maybe madness is the only sane response to an insane society. Coping is hard enough in life, without the stigma and consequences of mental illness, brought on by intense stress or some biological deficiency.

Both lead actors in these films chew up the scenery. Oddly, during a few intense moments in Silver Linings, the director cuts away from the Bradley Cooper character, a manic-depressive, to get the reaction shots of Jennifer Lawrence (from The Hunger Games).

The title of Silver Linings refers to the benefits of positive thinking to overcome difficulties. I am fan of optimism. Here are my other take-aways from Silver Linings.

  • Dancing and running help heal obsessive minds
  • Beat craziness with more craziness
  • Two messed-up people can make a sane thing
  • Find the silver lining in every crazy moment
  • Mental illness runs in families

The Master

Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams are incredible in The Master. There is never a cutting away from their faces during intense scenes. If anything, the close-ups just get closer. Tormented minds reveal themselves through dialogue and action. Actions have consequences.

Here are my take-aways from The Master

  • Every one serves someone (the master?). (Did Bob Dylan say this too?)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder is real, especially for wartime survivors
  • Communal living is healing (and destructive)
  • We may be better than we think we are
  • Don’t give up on love
  • Talk therapy works (hypnotherapy too?)

Overcoming mental illness is no joke, although, turns out, these two films depict the efforts to overcome mental illness as entertaining and compelling.

Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

After the characters of Freddy and Pat slide into their dysfunctional moments, they seem always at war with themselves, trying to reign in their destructive sides and crawl back to lives with family or community. They look for a state of grace. Or at least, they seek connection with others and a state of normalcy. Balance eludes them.

Just in time for Christmas and New Year’s, you can see these movies and contemplate having more compassion for your family members who may have diseases or mental illnesses.

Even though I loved these films, I hope to see a mainstream movie about a woman with a mental illness, preferably depression, which is far more common in women than men.

In the newly-released Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln denies her depression. Her mental illness is only viewed as an impediment to her emotional closeness to her family. For women in films, like Mary played by Sally Field, relationships matter most. For men, it is the journey to wholeness. But surely, Mary’s depression could be a fascinating feature-length film, not just a subplot in Lincoln’s life.

Maybe I’ll write more about Lincoln later. I just saw it yesterday and am still reeling from those performances and the immersion in a time of history when men and women fought to knit the country together rather than to pull it apart. To unite us.

PS I modeled this blog post from my previous post on 2 great new movies about alcoholism

Walking to Work

The rain is getting to me. I am going to walk the 45 blocks to work today.

Due to some burst pipe at my office building, my noontime yoga and Pilates classes have been cancelled for the last two weeks. I have discovered just how much I need those classes to combat my stress.

Just yesterday, I was walking the girls to school and heading for the subway. After a particularly stressful morning of finishing science projects before 8 am, I was thinking Wouldn’t it be great if I smoked? I could just blow smoke and watch the cars drive by?

And as I thought that, who should I see walking towards me, but my yoga teacher, Shane? Seeing her was a sign to make the healthy choices in handling life’s stresses.

We chatted a few minutes about when our classes will resume. Shane hoped by tomorrow. It’s always funny to bump into someone out of context. And as I’ve said before, my exercise teachers are the most gorgeous and nicest people you will ever meet.

I don’t know why I have been more worried lately — my husband’s Parkinson’s disease, his extended family’s financial situations, paying for the kids’ camps and tuition bills — I don’t know, just worried. 

And so here we stand, mid-week through a forecast of rain and gloom every day. If it’s only drizzling, I can walk and think today.

I must remember my 7 Rules. https://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/about/ And the things that always make me happy:  travel, parties, museums, art, hanging out with friends, working out, and getting a good night’s sleep. And so I will commit to these things. I’ll start with a walk in the rain.