If you read our previous post on Dissociative Identity Disorder, then you’ll know that mental illnesses often have a poor and inaccurate representation in media and pop culture.
And while some people in Hollywood don’t get it, others come pretty close to portraying mental health in accurate, relatable ways.
Here are my top 5 picks for movies about mental health that got it (mostly) right.
A Beautiful Mind
“A Beautiful Mind” gives a Hollywood take on real-life mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who made fundamental contributions to the game theory of economics and eventually won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1994. The film was inspired by the biography of the same name written by Sylvia Nasar.
The movie, starring Russell Crowe, details Nash’s life throughout graduate school at Princeton to teaching calculus at MIT. At age 31, Nash develops schizophrenia and has a breakdown that affects his home life. He suffers from hallucinations and delusions, and eventually comes to realize and accept this.
There are a few controversies with the movie, such as Nash “curing” himself of schizophrenia through pure willpower. It should be noted that the real John Nash, who died in May 2015, said as he aged, he recovered without medication.
While this might not represent a true treatment of schizophrenia, the overall portrayal of the mental illness gets a gold star from me.
Natalie Portman stars as Nina, a company ballerina auditioning for a dual role, the White Swan and the Black Swan, in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
Nina is cast as the Swan Queen, but Lily (Mila Kunis), another dancer in the company, is favored by the company director for the Black Swan role. This creates tension between Nina and Lily, with Nina becoming more anxious and having hallucinations that become more severe over time. She eventually has a psychotic break (though, I won’t spoil the movie for you!) and it’s apparent her mental health is at an alltime low.
Nina has an eating disorder that is mostly on the backburner in the film. The viewer is made aware of it, but it’s not a focal point of the story. This tidbit gives some light to how, historically, ballet dancers have faced pressure to watch their weight and maintain their figures. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, uncommon for a dancer to have an eating disorder. (Source: Dancemagazine.com)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
“Eternal Sunshine” seems like a slow-building indie drama as Joel (Jim Carrey) decides on a whim to travel to Montauk. During his trip home, he meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) who felt the same need to go to Montauk that day.
This might appear to be a coincidence, but they are actually former lovers who decided to erase each other from their respective memories.
Packed with an all-star cast, including Carrey, Winslet, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst, the film often jumps around in timeline throughout its 108 minutes, leading the viewer through Joel and Clem’s current and past relationship in fragments that at first appear to lack significance. For the majority of the film, we watch Joel try to solve his depression by spitefully erasing Clementine from his life and then fight against the memory removal because he realizes he doesn’t want to lose her. Unfortunately, as we know from the movie’s start, it’s too late.
“Eternal Sunshine” is a beautifully directed movie about love and mental health and realizing you can’t run away from yourself. There are so many layers to this film, that the most I can do to explain it is to say: Watch.
“Inside Out” is a Disney/Pixar animated film about a young girl named Riley. In the movie, the viewer is introduced to Riley’s emotions: Happiness (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
Riley’s life takes a turn when her dad takes a job across the country and she has to say goodbye to the life she was building. Happiness, the first of Riley’s emotions to appear, makes it her mission to make sure Riley is always happy—to the extent of making Sadness stand in a designated circle to keep her away from the prized core memories that make Riley who she is.
But as we all know, there’s no such thing as constant happiness, and Riley starts to shut down. Happiness and Sadness are thrown on a journey to restore Riley’s core memories while Anger, Fear and Disgust try to keep Riley composed.
I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I teared up during this movie. It hits home, and it’s a film people of all ages can relate to. Disney attempted a movie about mental health and succeeded in telling it in a charming, family-friendly way that, in my experience, is a near true telling of what being a kid dealing with mental health is like. “Inside Out” is a must-see.
Note: Some scenes in this film might be triggering to the viewer.
Kristen Stewart is known for her role as Bella Swan in the “Twilight” franchise and is probably more known for the various Tumblr memes revolving around her “bad acting.”
In “Speak,” Stewart’s acting is anything but.
Melinda Sordino (Stewart) seems to be an awkward teen in a state of limbo. She’s picked on and tormented for calling the cops while at a house party with underage drinking. But what no one knows is Melinda had been sexually assaulted and was trying to call for help.
As a result of her trauma, Melinda becomes selectively mute and suffers PTSD. She can’t bring herself to talk about what happened, and she has to face her assaulter every day in the school’s halls. She does find comfort in art, staying after class to speak with her art teacher (Steve Zahn). Eventually, she gets up enough courage to tell her story.
Watching this movie, which is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, was like trying to swallow a horse pill. It is meant to make you uncomfortable. It is meant to make you think about rape and mental illness. Both of those are real things that happen to real people.
Many rapists don’t realize what they’re doing is rape, much like Melinda’s attacker. That is not an excuse.
To all my readers: Drunk means no. Unconscious means no. Dating/married/casually hooking up does not mean you are owed anything. NO MEANS NO. Consent must be mutual.
That’s it for today! Keep learning and have a happy Monday.