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Films & TV Covering Mental Health Topics

Hey lovely readers, once again I would like to thank you for your readership, it’s been a very hectic week for me, but I thought as I like to talk about this subject mental health, I thought I’d share how I perceive this subject in films and TV and how it has been depicted. As someone who partially specialises in mental health and has experienced it as a spectator with friends and family, and also as someone who has suffered with depression and a eating disorder in the past; I like to see how these characters and their portrayals of these illnesses, and how they take on these issues and the journey of the illness.

Warning! I am a self confessed performing arts geek and some of these are dance related as well as mental health related.

The Black Swan

This film starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, about a ballet dancer, trying to make it; Natalie Portman portrays Nina a ballerina living in New York, her entire life and obsession revolves around dance, however things take a sinister turn when she experiences hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. Nina becomes a principle in the performance of Swan Lake something she has worked hard for. Not only does Nina start experience signs of paranoia pschizophrenia; Swan Lake however, as a story does depict some form of multiple personality disorder and exploring a dark side, this is exploration of both the black swan and the white swan, the good and the bad. This film mirrors the Swan Lake story excellently, as a thriller and part of Nina’s mental health condition, such as exploring bisexual fantasies, could be reflecting her age and late development as Nina is sheltered and is shown as been immature for her age, with the dolls and toys displayed in her room and the mollicoddling from her room mate in the movie. Natalie Portman’s character reflects similarities to Stephen King’s Carrie , in the way that Nina is a late bloomer as well and is starting to show signs hormonal development, and their lifestyles are very young for their current ages. Nina not only had symptoms of paranoia schizophrenia, but also bulimia, as explained in the scene where she was puking into the toilet. As I am from a dancing background and have met girls who have been to dance school and drama school, I have seen first hand how the pressure and to remain control is a common factor in the performing arts business, and has lead to eating disorders.

The More You Ignore Me

This is a remarkable heartfelt story set in the Northern countryside in the 1980s, it’s about teenage girl called Alice who dreams of seeing pop band The Smiths, however due to taking care of her schizophrenic mother played by Sheridan Smith, her chances to see The Smiths seem to get sabotaged. Smith’s eccentricity of her character, with an almost childlike element, does show role reversal of a mother and daughter relationship, from the aspect of Alice, who is taking on the mother role. It also displays the harsh realities and emotional battles of caring and living with someone with a mental illness. This was written by Jo Brand, a famous British female comedian with a background of being a mental health nurse.

To The Bone

I remember this on Netflix and saw the trailer months ago, Lily Collins, who my best friend Natasha once says, shows an uncanny resemblance to myself, is the female lead in this movie, about a girl named Ellen, who has an addiction to anorexia and has been through a collective range of recovery programmes. This takes us as viewers on her journey and her battle of acceptance for her mental illness. Lily Collins, who, like me is naturally petite anyway, and also like me in her early teenage years had suffered with an eating disorder, the portrayal was very accurate, as I had been on a similar style journey, it wasn’t glamorised and I think Collins portrayed that really well and realistic. Lily did have some struggles emotionally preparing for this role, but with the help of a nutritionist she had to lose 20lbs for the role; the appearance of her skin and hair, by the hair and makeup artists for the movie, aesthetically was real, as I too, suffered with bags under my eyes when I was suffering and my eyes stood out; again this is due to lack of nutrients and always suffering with fatigue due to not having enough energy. Collins and myself, when I have watched her in interviews has also struggled with the same battles of having an eating disorder in our early teens. I found this topic very close to my heart and found her performance outstanding, she was perfect for this role in my eyes.

A Beautiful Mind

This is a great film with Russell Crowe as the leading role, this takes us on journey, focussing on university lecturer Nash, who develops paranoia schizophrenia, and how it affects the lives of his family, when he keeps relapsing. Russell portrays this character verifying his gradual deteriorating mental health.

Donnie Darko

I am in two minds about this movie to be honest, Jake Gyllenhall is no doubt a cutie as always but I feel as though this is more horrific and a slight copycat version of a Stephen King style plot and slightly glamorised. This follows a story of teenager Donnie Darko who is a social outcast at school who suffers from PDST (post traumatic stress disorder), who has suffered a accident, he is then plagued by hallucinations of a skeletal rabbit named Frank, manipulating him into crimes. Very similar to Kings novels, it mirrors teenagers going through puberty, i.e. Donnie is a teenager and is experiencing what appears to be hallucinations and what is seen to be special powers; this mirrors movies such as Carrie, when she starts her period her telekenetic powers strengthen, or Charlie the central character in Fire Starter, who’s parokenesis powers become available when she is entering her preteen years. However, it is questioned that does Donnie Darko have paranoia schizophrenia, or is he a representation of Christ as it is mentioned he is able to solve a prophecy of the world ending, is this an existing problem, or is this part of his mental wellbeing suffering with schizophrenia?

Films With Borderline Personality Disorder

American Psycho starring Christian Bale, as a serial killer but also a successful career man, appears at the end did these events actually happen? Not only that based on true story, Catch Me If You Can, the central character Frank Abagnale Junior, there have been film critic speculations that he too may be suffering from borderline personality disorder. These films are amazing, not due to the mental health aspect, but also food for thought. Are these characters suffering my borderline personality disorder, or are they just living lives of crimes?

My Mad Fat Diary

This tells the story of teenage girl Rae Earl, who lives with her single mom in Lincolnshire, and she suffers depression, this then leads to her having a disorder of compulsive eater and is then hospitalised. This is a three series part television series, exploring adolescent insecurities, teenage romances, puberty and bereavement. Sharon Rooney, narrates as the central character, she takes us on a journey showing the positives and negatives with her love/hate relationships with food. In one episode she states that she doesn’t like eating in front of people as she feels judged that people would judge her, due to her size. This is a personal favourite of mine, not only does she embody the character physically and emotionally, she shows how her body insecurities and mental health battles show how she deals with her relationships.

If anyone has seen any films surrounding the taboo topic of mental health disorders, please pop a suggestion in the comments.

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