Tag Archives: Bipolar Disorder

Book Review: Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons

sightsunseen

Rating: B+/ People who know me know that mental illness has been a big part of my life since I was very little. I guess you could say that you don’t choose mental illness, mental illness chooses you. As someone with severe depression and an anxiety disorder, I kept thinking about in what ways the Barnes family from Sights Unseen were like my own family and in what ways they were different. In caring for somebody with a mental disorder like my parents have cared for me, mental illness becomes an inexorable part of your life, whether you like it or not. Love and frustration go hand in hand. Continue reading Book Review: Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons

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Movie Review: The Dark Horse (2014)

darkhorse

Rating: B-/ I know I’m in the minority in finding this feel-good Kiwi drama a little over-rated; it’s perfectly charming and watchable, yes, but also perfectly formulaic. It’s the kind of movie you can watch and go “Yeah, I enjoyed that,” but it’s predictability makes it hard for it to make much of a lasting impression on you. That said, the actors here are a standout. There’s clearly so much underrated dramatic talent on display here, and they successfully maneuver The Dark Horse through it’s moments where it is just ‘blah’ at best, frustratingly cliche and pat at worst. Continue reading Movie Review: The Dark Horse (2014)

Movie Review: I Smile Back (2015)

 

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Rating: B/ For the most part, the critics didn’t really seem to like this movie, and I can understand why; the protagonist is fairly unlikable, the subject matter is uncomfortable and sometimes downright unpleasant to watch,  and the film itself just kind of ends abruptly, with no definitive conclusion or explanation. I Smile Back is not a easy movie, but it is a true movie, a film for anyone who’s ever been told they have a good, blessed life, and to stop being depressed and pull themselves together for Christ’s sakes. Some people are miserable because they live under terrible circumstances, and for some people, the reason for their unhappiness is much more complicated. You can have everything in the world, and still find it hard to get up in the morning and face a day full of people who, to you, seem cruel-natured and callous. Continue reading Movie Review: I Smile Back (2015)

Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

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Rating: B/ Filmmaker Maya Forbes’ heart tugging, affectionate autobiographical tale stars Mark Ruffalo as Cam, a perennial screw-up and the manic-depressive father of two little girls, Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) and Amelia ( Imogene Wolodarsky, the filmmaker’s own daughter.) When we first meet Cam, it is the winter of 1978, and he is in the midst of a manic episode, running around in the freezing cold in his skivvies and terrorizing his family, who then lock themselves in the car in fear. Later he is hospitalized and put on heavy medication that makes him shuffle, fat and complacent, around the halls of the mental hospital. Continue reading Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

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Despite the huge Dennis Lehane kick I’ve been on lately, I was unsure about reading his 2003 novel ‘Shutter Island’ because I wasn’t a big fan of the Leo DiCaprio film. While I still highly question the realism of the twist ending, I’m as utterly in love with Lehane’s writing as ever, and this is a slightly different offering from him, an entertaining riff on Gothic mid-20th century pulp fiction that pulsates barely contained malice. I just wish I hadn’t watched the movie first, since nothing was as big a surprise to me as one might hope for.

Teddy Daniels, an emotionally traumatized, serious U.S. Marshall and veteran of the second World War grieving the loss of his wife Dolores in an apartment fire a few years prior, arrives at Ashcliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane searching for an escaped patient, Rachel Solando. Solando was incarcerated for the fillicide of her three children and has seemingly vanished into thin air, leaving nothing but a few puzzling hand-written codes in her wake. Teddy comes onto Shutter Island, the foreboding location of Ashcliffe Hospital by ferry with his good-humored partner, Chuck Aule.

A place that houses only society’s most dangerous and volatile inmates, eerie hints of ongoing human experimentation, a doozy of a hurricane heading their way and threatening to total the control panel and release the crazies from their cells- what could go wrong? Poor Teddy is continually haunted by visions and nightmares of the most macabre variety, spooky reminders of the wife he lost and the uncertainty surrounding her death, He’s not well… and things are going to get a whole lot worse…

Teddy is a tough cookie, but the island begins to not-so-slowly get under his skin, and soon the bereaved paranoiac begins to believe that everyone, and everything, is out to get him. There’s a ton of historical context to this novel, from flashbacks of World War II concentration camps, to Cold War-era anxiety, to the ongoing stigmatization of mental illness. However, none of these things are pedantically pushed upon the reader and the novel as a whole is a fast-paced, exhilarating read.

The setting is fascinating (especially for a self-proclaimed fan of the macabre and Gothic like me) and the characters are easy to picture in one’s head with Lehane’s adept descriptive passages. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this book horror- more of a dark psychological thriller with tons of sinister build-up and uncertainty going on, as well as some extremely strange dream sequences that unsettlingly (but accurately) portray Teddy’s troubled psyche. There’s a very important message beneath all this weirdness, a commentary on the horrors that spring up from denying escalating mental illness in a loved one, an all-too-common occurrence in the recent past.

‘Shutter Island’ isn’t perfect, and it isn’t as riveting as some of Lehane’s work. As I stated at the beginning, the end twist seems so improbable that it almost ruined the movie for me. I would go so far as to say it doesn’t really make sense under close scrutiny. Dennis Lehane’s dialogue can be a bit unrealistic at times (while being utterly plausible at others,) especially when he tries to hard to make a particular point, and Teddy’s conversation with the bile-spitting, expletive-screaming warden is one such instance where a little bit of editing and subtle toning-down of the subject matter could have done wonders.

Of the three Lehane novels I’ve read (“Gone, Baby, Gone,” “Mystic River,” and this book, “Shutter Island,”) I recommend you read the one you haven’t seen the movie for first. I was kind of bummed to already see the twist for this and “Mystic River” coming, while “Gone, Baby, Gone”  was a riveting experience unmarred by already seeing the characters and the situations pictured in my head by the movie. I don’t think this is a very believable book when you examine it under a microscope (the other two are much more plausible in terms of plot,) but it’s just as exciting and entertaining as the others, plus there’s the Gothic backdrop that offers some dark spookiness to to the author’s repertoire.