I recently rewatched Donnie Darko this week, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to talk about Depression in film. This might not be exclusive to depression, but depression is a big player in a lot of mental illnesses.
Starting with Donnie Darko, he was, in a sense, schizophrenic, however he had a fair share of symptoms of someone with depression. Donnie took medication and attended therapy regularly. A cult classic, he is a poster child of the “emo” movement. Not only did Donnie alienate himself from his peers, he didn’t really get along with his family, and was “acting out” as teenagers tend to do. On the other spectrum, he had an imaginary relationship with a man in a rabbit costume named Frank (pictured above) which leads people to believe he is also schizophrenic. You can watch Donnie Darko 100 times and still walk away asking a million questions. I don’t want to give too much away, but you can spoil it for yourself here.
Another favorite film of mine, and also would consider a cult classic would be Little Miss Sunshine. There are a plethora of characters who are depressive in this film. The movie begins, in fact, as Toni Collette (the mom) is headed to the hospital to pick up her brother (Steve Carell) after he has attempted suicide. He comes to stay with his sister and her family, and they embark on quite an adventure, with a lot more letdowns than any “feel good film” should have. Their son has taken a vow of silence (Paul Dano) and throughout most of the film is incredibly morose. Also, the grandfather (who is not pictured) is addicted to heroin, and uses throughout the entirety of the film. I don’t want to give too much away, but as Steve Carell says near the end of the film when Paul Dano says he wishes he could sleep through high school years, that those are your “prime suffering” years and they shape you into the person you are in the future. Quite a bit of advice. Read more about depression in Little Miss Sunshine Here.
There are plenty of great movies with depression as one of the main things that conflicts the characters, but Revolutionary Road is almost hard to watch. This movie staring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, shows a young married couple who would appear to be living the American Dream, but it slowly topples as the story unfolds. They grow to detest each other, and become increasingly depressive and uncaring. They make plans to move to Paris to add some spice to their life and their marriage, but of course, life happens and things take a turn for the worse. I really don’t want to ruin the ending- however this film is heavy and not for the lighthearted. Walking away from this movie, I won’t lie you will probably feel depressed yourself. This movie is a perfect example of though you might have everything you want you can still be unhappy, and not only that, not to judge a book by its cover.
I could probably go on and on about movies with depression in them, there are a lot, but I wanted to wrap up this set of movies with another favorite, The Black Swan. Nina is a talented young ballerina, however, she is naive. When she gets cast as the Swan Queen in the ballet, she must learn to channel the good and the bad in herself into her dancing, and because of this she ends up losing herself to the animal she has let herself become. Alongside this, Nina also suffers from an eating disorder, and she strives constantly to be perfect in the eyes of everyone- especially her dance teacher and her mother. She goes through a whirlwind of emotion as she lets herself become more of the “black” swan than the white. The Black Swan is a good example of losing yourself to your illness, and striving to be “perfect” when perfection is not a real thing, and sadly Nina couldn’t see that in doing this she was slowly killing herself. There are plenty of twists and turns in The Black Swan, and I don’t want to spoil it, but it is one of the best films that has come out in recent years and I think everyone should see it. Read this article about how psychiatrists diagnose Nina, probably better than I did.
This wraps up my list, I think I’ll probably do a similar one in the future, I really enjoy all these films for different reasons, but they way they convey mental illness is pretty spot on to reality. I hope readers will watch them and enjoy (though they are all a little depressing.)