Cinema greatly influences our culture. When a movie portraying mental illness becomes popular, the awareness around the said mental illness grows. Currently, nearly 1 billion people suffer from some form of mental health condition. These stories stemming from the true experiences of people make a real impact, especially on those affected by a mental disorder.
Some movies totally distort the way mental illnesses present themselves, thereby leaving those suffering from it feeling ostracized. However, some gems out there talk about mental illness in a realistic manner, while still gripping and engaging the audience. Here are some of the gems:
5 Must-Watch Movies that discuss about Mental Illnesses:
1. Fight Club (1999) – Insomnia and Dissociative Identity Disorder
David Fincher’s Fight Club, based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, tackles a lot of themes — toxic masculinity, insomnia, dissociative identity disorder (DID), pain and trauma, and isolation. Fight Club also comments on our current culture where advertising sets false ideals for people, ideals that are never really reached.
The movie is stunningly beautiful. It follows the life of an unnamed narrator, a regular guy with insomnia, who meets an unhinged soap salesman named Tyler Durden. The two men together form an underground club, with very specific rules. What happens when Tyler goes too far? Well, that’s for you to find out.
2. The King’s Speech (2010) – Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
The King’s Speech by the director Tom Hooper is a beautiful story of friendship, obstacles, and resilience. Colin Firth plays the role of the socially anxious King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, is the King’s speech trainer. The multiple Academy Award-winning biopic chronicles the struggle of King George (Bertie) with stammering as he faces pressure to deliver a speech to the entire nation about Britain entering war with Germany.
The movie also shows how situational King George’s stammering can be. He speaks with much more ease with his supportive wife, than he does with his father or in the public. The signs of social anxiety are apparent as he avoids eye contact, fears public speaking, and is overly conscious of every action he takes.
Overall, the film is a delightful theatrical experience portraying the speech impediment in a sensitive and sympathetic manner.
3. World’s Greatest Dad (2009) – Depression and Suicide
Starring Robin Williams as Lance Clayton, World’s Greatest Dad tells the story of a divorced high school teacher with a difficult teenage son. Lance is a failed writer with 5 rejected novels and his poetry class is on the verge of being dropped due to its unpopularity. His son, Kyle, who studies at the same school where Lance teaches, often gets into trouble for getting into fights, saying mean things, and being generally hostile. Despite Lance’s best efforts, his son neither respects him nor shows any signs of gratitude. Kyle is a loner with just one friend, Andrew. After a tragedy hits, Lance’s life is changed — and so is our opinion of him.
World’s Greatest Dad is a black comedy about parenthood, grief, loss, envy, and fame. The movie touches upon sensitive topics such as suicide and depression and explores them meaningfully — how lonely it can be and the individual experience of it.
4. Beautiful Boy (2018) – Addiction
Beautiful Boy is a biographical drama film based on two bestselling memoirs — Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff. The movie beautifully portrays the relationship between a loving father and an addicted son.
It’s a raw depiction of drug addiction and what it does to a family. The movie is delicate with its cinematography and doesn’t follow a chronological narrative.
It takes a deep dive into the harrowing experience of being addicted to drugs as well as the experience of seeing someone you love giving in to drugs. Beautiful Boy is a dark, intense, and touching watch.
5. A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Paranoid Schizophrenia
A Beautiful Mind is based on the true story of the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. The film follows Nash’s slow descent into paranoid schizophrenia.
It accurately captures the struggle of the genius mathematician with his delusions and the effects of his illness on his promising career. A Beautiful Mind is a movie about friendship, love, and the harsh reality of living with an incurable mental illness.
All these films revolve around characters suffering from various mental health issues, but besides that, they also vividly capture how their illness impacts others in their lives, and the importance of support from loved ones.
Mental illness is still considered a taboo, and the stigma surrounding it negatively impacts those afflicted. Cinema can do its bit by bringing these issues to light and sparking up more conversations around mental health issues while reducing the stigma.