Every year film studios try to give a wider representation to the most marginalized communities, be it the LGBT community, the black community or other minorities. Some people are starting to get mad because they feel that these studies are only interested in filling an inclusive agenda as a good PR strategy. Others, on the other hand, believe that it is necessary since the members of these communities did not grow up seeing positive role models that truly represent them.
What do I think? I don’t give much importance to it, but I do appreciate that more women and people of color; actresses, writers, and directors have more opportunities now than they did before. Disney only cares about looking good to the woke community? I don’t care. The representation is still there.
However, if there is something that does matter to me, it is the representation of mental illness in the cinema, at least, appropriate representations.
The only times we saw mental disorders in films were in horror movies. Where being mad was the horror factor of the plot, as in Shutter Island, a movie I LOVED. However, I am aware of how stigmatizing it is for mental illness. Being sick does not mean being a madman with a knife, yet many people do not see that — only the horror tropes that are synonymous with mental illness in the media.
Some movies like Jennifer Lawrence’s Silver Linings Playbook were a bit more accurate. Their efforts are appreciated but we still had a long way to go.
Almost by accident, without looking for it, I found what I think is the film that best represents mental illnesses, without stigmas, without the mandatory dramatization, and with the respect that mental illness deserves. The best part: it’s on Netflix!
Crazy About Her, love and mental illness
This movie premiered a few days ago on Netflix and is a Spanish production. I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies, but it was movie night and it was my girlfriend’s turn to pick one. We didn’t even watch the trailer, she had only heard of the movie and wanted to watch it for romance and all of that. As an EXCELLENT boyfriend that I am, I accepted and also made popcorn, where is my award for boyfriend of the year?
As it is very recent, I am not going to tell you anything that you cannot find in the trailer or the synopsis. So… NO SPOILERS ALERT I guess …
At first, it seemed like any other rom-com, (soppy and *vomits*) but just a few minutes into the plot I realized that what I was watching was not just any movie.
We follow the story of Adri, a writer for a famous magazine, who has just met Carla, they spend an unforgettable night together. That is when Adri discovers that he cannot see Carla again because she escaped from a mental health center where she is hospitalized, since she suffers from bipolar disorder.
Adri waits patiently for Carla to complete her recovery process, they get married and live happily ever after.
I’m just kidding…
What does Adri decide to do? He falsifies a medical report diagnosing himself with a mental illness to enter the mental health center and in hopes of making Carla fall in love with him, at the same time he would write the best report of his life for the magazine for which he works. At the beginning, I thought it was a bit intrusive and I was afraid of the turns the plot would take from there. Fortunately for me and all of us who appreciate mental health, everything changed for the better.
Once inside, our “hero” discovers that his plan is not going to turn out as he planned and that getting out of there will not be so easy. Along the way, Adri learns a lot from his roommate and the other patients at the center, getting to know them and their mental illnesses in depth. This forces him not only to change his original plan, but his way of seeing the world and mental health.
In the end, Crazy About Her is a work that could be limited to the typical story of the guy who does everything to win the girl, but this movie wanted to go further. It shows us the difficulties of living with a mental illness, and at the same time adapting to a society that does not fully understand, or even acknowledge them.
Mental illness treated respectfully and appropriately
There are many ways this movie could go wrong. Thank goodness it didn’t.
We are used to the fact that if there are mental illnesses in comedies, the jokes are always coming from the exaggerated way of representing the patients. Look at him, he’s crazy, how funny! Crazy About Her took great care of portraying mental illness in each character, also showing a wide variety of them, not just the best known.
Most of the time the target of the jokes is Adri, the only “sane” person in the plot, demonstrating that a person without a diagnosed disease is not necessarily someone with the best judgment. The health center patients do not become bumbling buffoons, drooling and docile, for our pleasure and entertainment, which I greatly appreciated.
What this film undoubtedly achieves is putting us in Adri’s shoes. Most of us have been him, a person who is not fully aware of the depth of mental illness and what it is like to live with one. But not because we are not interested, but because we were never taught correctly on the topic, creating erroneous ideas of misrepresentations in film and television. It is not until we step into (literally) the world of mental health that we truly understand what this entails.
Look mental illness in the eye
Although Adri is the protagonist since she has more screen time, those who are in charge of telling us the story are actually the patients at the health center.
The director, Dani de la Orden, made sure that the representation of each disorder is accurate and natural, by sending the script to various mental health advisers for approval. It is this that provided the differentiating factor of this film with all those who have tried it in the past. Taking the time and effort to understand mental illness with empathetic eyes and worrying about representing them in a way that helps us see those who suffer from them in a more understanding and concerned way.
Most of this work is reflected in our female protagonist character and her illness, her bipolar disorder. The actress perfectly balances the complexity of playing Carla, reflecting not only her best moments but also the most difficult she experiences due to her illness and the conditions that it entails.
Crazy About Her is a dynamic and emotional film that will take us from laughter to tears very naturally, and will also leave us a very important message at the end.
While there are many films that have tried to portray mental illness appropriately, few have succeeded in doing it in such a destigmatizing way. Opinions will surely vary, but I dare say that it is the biggest step that has been taken towards the correct representation of mental health in the cinema in years.
If you’re free this weekend, why not give this film a go, I’m sure it will be a worthy watch.
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