Five movies that take a heartfelt look at mental health

Hollywood tends to make a lot of movies about mental illness and actors often relish these roles. However, many of these films use mental illness as an opportunity for exploitive drama or Oscar bait performances, rather than really giving viewers a window of empathy to those battling depression or other mental illness.

See Full Article

A movie like Girl, Interrupted is a prime example of this; Hollywood royalty Angela Jolie even won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role, playing a sociopath in an institution. Now, it’s no shame to have won an Oscar, but the movie itself delves so deeply into melodrama even the writer of the novel Girl, Interrupted was a major detractor of the film. Girl, Interrupted also seemed to carry the message that those with mental illness need to buck up and get over it; that there is a choice involved and these silly girls should stop being dramatic. Even a movie like A Beautiful Mind, which would top most lists like this, seems to present a very glamourized version of schizophrenia. And in fact, the movie seems to posit that schizophrenia caused mathematician John Nash’s brain to be wired to think differently. In reality, Nash had to stop working when his illness really took hold.

Arguably, movies like Girl, Interrupted and A Beautiful Mind are mental illness as entertainment. Of course, all movies are entertainment, but when a filmmaker decides to take mental illness more seriously, a film becomes more powerful and justified. So I decided to really dig deep into film history to find five good movies about mental illness. There are, of course, more than five good movies that explore this topic, but these are five that I think showcase conversations about mental health well. Movies that don’t belittle people who are battling with depression. Movies that don’t use mental health as exploitation. Some of the movies I’ve found are about people with major issues, some of them about lost souls with quiet, everyday struggles. But hopefully there’s something to be found in each of them.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Jack Nicholson plays a character that is actually not mentally ill, but he ends up in an asylum after faking insanity to escape hard prison labour. He is surrounded by characters with a range of issues, but moreso, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a look at some of the deplorable conditions that good people with mental issues have been forced to deal with. The movie is funny, touching, frustrating, and largely considered one of the best movies in cinematic history. Ken Kesey’s 1962 book, as well as the film, are both credited with destroying the image of ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, and hastening its exit from mental health care.

Crumb

Crumb is a documentary about cartoonist, Robert Crumb, but it’s so much more than that. As an artist, Crumb transformed his own childhood neurosis into garish and satirical works. But the movie goes even deeper into his family, in one of the most heartbreaking looks at day-to-day mental illness. Crumb’s brother Charles Crumb, who never moved out of his mother’s house and ended up committing suicide a few years back, is featured quite prominently. It’s noted that Charles was just as good as an artist as Robert, but he gave up drawing as his mental illness worsened over time. What starts as a movie about a seminal underground American cartoonist becomes one of the most telling portraits of mental illness and its effects on both the individual and family.

Ordinary People

Ordinary People, a 1980 film and the directorial debut of Robert Redford, is another film that shows the ramifications of mental illness on families. In the movie, Timothy Hutton plays Conrad, a suicidal young man returning home from a psychiatric facility after the death of his older brother. Donald Sutherland tries to connect with his son and understand his wife, who is in denial and seems to be growing colder towards Conrad. This is a Hollywood movie, and it did take home several Oscars, but it is also one of the more intelligent and meaningful takes on mental distress and how it affects lives.

Two Days, One Night

While Two Days, One Night isn’t specifically about mental illness, it factors into the story quite heavily and explores stigma and how people in the workplace perceive those with mental health issues. Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, a wife and mother that works in a factory in Belgium. She is forced to take time away from work after a nervous breakdown. While she’s away, her co-workers realize they can cover her work, so management offers them a big bonus if they agree to make her redundant. Sandra must visit each of her sixteen colleagues over the weekend to convince them to reject the bonus and keep her on. Two Days, One Night is about many things, including the economy of poverty, a major contributor to mental health issues. But it is also about how her coworkers, people she used to work beside, either see her differently, assume she’s being lazy, or just use her mental health as an excuse to get the bonus for their own needs.

Inside Out

Just because a movie is bright and funny, doesn’t mean it can’t add to the conversation about mental illness. And while Pixar movies are very Hollywood, they are also a company that takes chances in their storytelling that push animated films to new heights. In Inside Out, a girl named Riley is displaced from her home and her depression starts to surface. But we see ‘inside’ Riley’s head to her personified emotions, each played by different people; Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. While it is obviously not very scientifically relevant, it is a very smart way to help children understand and articulate their emotions. Inside Out is also a movie with a very powerful message --- that it’s okay to feel sadness. And moreso --- that it’s okay to ask for help.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • 7-foot-7 'Game of Thrones' actor Neil Fingleton dies at 36

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON -- Neil Fingleton, a 7-foot 7-inch actor who played the giant Mag the Mighty in "Game of Thrones" has died at 36. The Tall Persons Club says Fingleton, who was Britain's tallest man, died Saturday. Source
  • Cosby to ask judge for outside jury for criminal trial

    Entertainment CTV News
    NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Actor Bill Cosby is set to return to a Pennsylvania courtroom Monday to ask a judge to bring in outside jurors in his criminal sex assault case. The hearing comes after the trial judge Friday ruled that only one other accuser can testify at the scheduled June trial. Source
  • 'Moonlight' actress Naomie Harris says Oscars mix-up was 'quite extraordinary' and 'more than a little awkward' [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Moonlight actress Naomie Harris admits it was “a little awkward” learning her movie had won the Best Picture Oscar moments after La La Land had mistakenly been crowned winner. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture Oscar prize at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday night and said they had mistakenly been given the wrong envelope, meaning they announced La La Land had won the night’s most coveted honour. Source
  • PwC's hard-won reputation under threat after Oscars mix-up

    Entertainment CBC News
    For 82 years, global accounting and consulting firm PwC has enjoyed a reputational boon from handling the balloting process at the Academy Awards. Now its hard-won status is under threat. The company was responsible for a colossal mistake at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday night when actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced the top Oscar to La La Land, instead of Moonlight. Source
  • Oscar-winning Syrian rescue group says award is inspiration

    Entertainment CTV News
    BEIRUT -- The head of the Syrian search-and-rescue group featured in the harrowing Oscar-winning Netflix documentary "The White Helmets" said on Monday he hopes the award will serve as an inspiration his volunteers to keep up their mission in the war-torn country. Source
  • Adele gives thumbs up to Emma Stone, 'Moonlight'

    Entertainment CTV News
    Oscars oops: 'Moonlight' wins after envelope flub Sorry ' La La Land,' but 'Moonlight' really won Source
  • Oscars 2017: 'Moonlight' wins best picture after stunning mix-up and the best, worst moments of the show [Photos]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    First posted: Sunday, February 26, 2017 07:04 PM EST | Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2017 07:24 PM EST Source
  • Garth Brooks celebrates five millionth ticket sold on his world tour while at Rogers Place

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Over 20,000 Garth Brooks fans took part in a historic moment on Friday evening at Rogers Place. The third last concert of Brooks’ nine-show Edmonton engagement also marked the five millionth ticket sold on the country singer’s three-year tour, officially making it the biggest in the world. Source
  • Review: What happened? Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel was unflappable

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- True, Jimmy Kimmel can't bring together a divided country. But for a few hours Sunday as host of the Oscars, he helped all within earshot laugh more than a little at the nation's current discord. Source
  • Sorry ' La La Land,' but 'Moonlight' really won

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- It was one of the most awkward moments in the history of the Oscars, of television, in entertainment, heck maybe in American history. And somehow Warren Beatty, Hollywood's ultimate smooth leading man, was at the centre of it, and the accounting firm that is responsible for the integrity of Oscar voting apologized and was vowing a full investigation. Source