Tag Archives: Suicide

Soulmate (2013)

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Note to self- Do. Not. Buy. Into. the. Controversy. Given more attention already than it deserves because of a suicide attempt scene that was edited and eventually cut the by the British censors, “Soulmate” is a tepid supernatural soap opera centered around a woman’s all-consuming love for an angst-ridden spirit.The filmmaker, Axelle Carolyn, can’t be bothered to let any mirth or light into this painfully self-serious and grim production.

Audrey (Anna Walton, who does a pretty decent job considering) is a bereaved Englishwoman whose husband Tristan (Richard Armitage)’s untimely death drives her to an ill-advised suicide attempt. Emotionally fragile, she abandons her worried sister and parents to take up residence in a Welsh cottage to wait her grief out. No sooner has she moved there than she begins to hear strange noises emanating from a locked room in the house.

The town-peoples’ refusal to offer any explanation for the strange sounds lead Audrey to seek out the entity behind the racket, who turns out to be a ghastly pale but still dapper spirit who died years before of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Small world. Not long after Audrey meets Douglas (Tom Wisdom,) the ghost, she begins to fall for his unearthly charms. But will the unusual romance result in Audrey giving herself to Douglas in death? And what exactly are the locals hiding?

First of all, the concept of a woman contemplating killing herself so she can lay a ghost bothers me. It’s not a feminist, nay, even a moral issue. But have you ever heard of a person’s bed being haunted by two apparitions fucking in that cold dark space between life and death? No, because it’s stupid. The whole concept fails at everything. Even if there was a possibility that deceased spirits could harness their ghostly genitals to copulate with each other, it doesn’t work in a film, because it sounds so silly.

Telekinetic brooding lovesick ghosts don’t really appeal to me. Moreover, I just didn’t really care about any of the characters. None of them seemed particularly real to me. The acting was fine, there was just something lacking that probably could have been built on in the film’s conception. Audrey isn’t a reprehensible or even an unpleasant character, but there’s no reason to root for her (beyond the hope that she will find a better way to deal with her depression than ending her life.) None whatsoever. Moreover, I didn’t find the lonely and despair-driven poltergeist Douglas all that compelling. He just is. Yeah, he’s haunting the house. Big whoop.

This might be a minor complaint, but I would think anyone who’s ever been halfway serious about suicide would know that you don’t slit your wrists in a bathtub when your sister’s scheduled to come home at any minute. A self-inflicted wound like that, however gruesome, takes time to kill you. Audrey decision to go all “Goodbye, cruel world” with her sister going out for a brief amount of time (when it’s highly probable that Audrey’s already on suicide watch) makes me wonder if she even really wanted to die at all, which is apparently what we’re supposed to believe.

“Soulmate” isn’t really a bad film, just overbearingly mediocre. There are, however, a few tense moments and atmosphere to spare. I recommend the more well-known alternative “The Others” for a really spooky Gothic chiller. It might be particularly behoove you to skip it if you are currently in a self-destructive state of mind or are vulnerable to that kind of imagery, especially since Netflix instant has the uncut (no pun intended) wrist-slitting sequence. It’s not worth an nervous breakdown, honest.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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Witty and intelligent, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is a must-read for anyone who has ever felt trapped by their own isolation. It also has one of the most genuine teen voices I’ve ever seen. The protagonist. Charlie, is a good student but is never really noticed by his peers, and he lives inside of his head most of the time. Until the epic year that he meets Patrick and Sam, two free-spirited freshmen who encourage him put himself out there. Charlie promptly falls head-over-heels in love with Sam (a girl,) though she initially rebuffs him. The story is told from the point of view of a bunch of letters Charlie sends to a teenager he has never met. Charlie struggles with his psychological difficulties, dates. and comes to terms with a traumatic memory from his childhood he has repressed.

If that sounds boring to you and you would rather read a book with James Bond-style spy gear and car chases, maybe this isn’t the book for you. This is a book about life, teens, dating (but not that superficial teen stuff a lot of young adult books are about.) Charlie is a sensitive vulnerable kid, and doesn’t don the usual jaded teen voice that YA literature is rife with. He really wears his heart on his sleeve, and he is easy to love, although his naivete and immaturity can be troubling at times. The gay subplot between Patrick and a popular football player who won’t acknowledge him in school is sensitive and well-written.

I actually thought Patrick was a more vibrant character in the movie. I guess without Ezra Miller to play him, he falls a little flat. Also, some aspects were a little more fleshed out in the film. But there’s a on of great scenes and side-plots that weren’t in the movie. And actually, I liked and got to know Charlie a lot better in this. This book makes me a little melancholy (not in a bad way) because all the things Charlie is doing- getting out there, taking risks- are things I was told but never really did as a teen. I would have loved to have friends like Patrick and Sam. I would’ve loved to have one of those ‘infinite’ moments in a pick-up truck with the radio playing just the right song.

But overall. Charlie is not a character to envy. He’s just as messed up, confused, conflicted, etc. as any 15-year-old. He’s extremely bright and insightful, but sometimes those two things can be just as much a hindrance as a help, and he spends way too much time in his head. He is a very relatable character for me. Some people might not like the writing style, but I find that the somewhat juvenile way of telling the story helps it remain plausible. You really believe it could be being told by a 15-year-old.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is one of the better young adult books I’ve come across the last few years. Maybe this sounds corny, but it really restores my faith in the genre. Also, I added a wonderful sketch by a deviantart user. I’m going to add a link to the picture so you can visit her page.  I recommend both the book and the movie version to book and movie fans everywhere.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

I pulled my paperback copy of this book of my shelf on impulse one day, and I’m very glad I did. ‘Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes’ is a compelling read, which examines a large birth of issues including bullying, obesity, disabilities, child abuse, abortion, and religion. This all sounds very ‘disease-of-the-week,’ but the ‘problem novel’ aspect of the novel is levied by genuine audacity and an unforgettable cast  of characters.

Eric, called ‘Moby’ (as in the whale) for his considerable girth, is an obese seventeen-year-old boy living in a single-parent family. His oldest friend, Sarah Byrnes was horribly disfigured under suspicious circumstances when she was three. For seventeen years she has stood strong, but now she sits, wounded and silent, in a psychiatric ward.

Eric is running out of time. He has to save Sarah Byrnes from insanity… or something worse. Because someone wants to silence Eric. And in this situation, there isn’t a wide berth for error. Subplots involve   proselytization by Eric’s Christian conservative classmate, a classroom discussion group dissecting relevant social issues, and a troubled and dimwitted boy from Eric’s past.

It might be hard to warm up to the characters at first. Eric is a unrepentant smartass who constantly describes his obesity and profuse perspiration at length, while Sarah Byrnes sometimes seems rougher (and meaner) than she needs to be. Likewise Steve Ellerby, Eric’s other friend, seems to be someone who would pick any fight with a Christian. But slowly your views change- Eric is a devoted friend, Sarah is incredibly brave, and Ellerby is a thinker  who refuses to accept someone else’s reality that doesn’t make sense to him  as his own. Even crazy-religious and hypocritical Mark Brittain shows a human side.

This in’t the best written book ever- it contains a lot of cliched language. But the plot and the characters are engrossing. The story is exciting while also being interesting and not insulting the reader’s intelligence. “Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes” was actually banned/challenged at several points by the school systems, and a Wisconsin parents actually called it ‘pornography’ at one point, which is pure ridiculousness. It is actually a pretty mature book, but nothing that older teens can’t handle in my opinion.

This is a lot darker than the last YA book I read (the Trans-friendly “Parrotfish,”) but then this arguably goes deeper into teen issues (not just GLBTQ issues.) I can’t say I liked this one better, but then, they do different things well. For compelling characters and a steady mix of drama and action, look no further than “…Sarah Byrnes.” I think you could get a tech-head  or jock boy who is committed to sports or glued to his video game system to read this book because it is so involving. I think it should be on every high school library shelf .

The book’s intriguing dedication.

By The Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

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Although it has some examples of grating and cliched prose (all of which is typical for YA lit,) “By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead” provides a fairly accurate look at the confused and self-despising mind of a suicidal teen. Daelyn Rice is at boiling point- after various attempts to take her own life, she has joined a suicide completion web site and is determined to succeed this time. Her parents are amiable but clueless- her classmates, cruel, and her teachers apathetic. Daelyn’s head brims with contradictions, despair, and hopelessness. She both hates the world and hates herself- but will the eccentric Santana draw her out of her suicidal shell?

Daelyn was an simultaneously tragic and profoundly frustrating. She’s a sick little girl, and considering her history of bullying by both the kids and adults in her life, that’s no surprise. I was so mad at Daelyn’s parents, though of course I felt bad that their daughter detested them and wanted to kill herself. I don’t know about you, but if I was locked in the closet for eight hours by some students and pissed my pants, my dad would be tearing the bullies, the teachers, and the administration a new asshole.

And I understand why parents don’t have the time and resources to homeschool their bullied kids. But don’t these people have any protective instinct towards their offspring? At first I thought Chip and Kim Rice were nice. Now I think they’re idiots. Daelyn herself is a somewhat unreliable narrator, especially in the way she portrays suicide. I would suggest that parents look up this book before they let their teens with depressive issues read this. I know you can’t always control what teens read, nor would they want to (adolescence is a time of burgeoning freedom) but the story is not exactly hopeful, and could be triggering to a certain audience.

However, for teens who are not suicidal-slash-are recovering, this is a compelling read. The Santana/Daelyn aspect was a little unbelievable. Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve been drawn within myself and bitter and hopeless, and nobody pursues you to the point that Santana pursued Daelyn. After a while, they stop trying to open you up. And when they reveal Santana has cancer? Please. Figures that the one boy who follows her to the ends of the earth is extremely ill.
‘By the Time You Read This…’ isn’t for everyone. Depressing for some audiences, annoyingly one note for others, the book is best suited for people who have been lowered into the abyss of depression, either by traumatic life experiences or their own inner demons. You’re more likely to enjoy the book if you can relate to Daelyn to some extent. Which I did. Her downer attitude was exasperating at times, but that’s what bullying does to a person. Please. Bullying is not, and will never be cool. Don’t fuck with people.

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Mister Foe (Hallam Foe) (2007)

Mister Foe (2008)

Welcome to the life of Brit teen Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell), whose many odd habits include using his late mother’s makeup as war paint and turning a pair of binoculars on women breastfeeding babies, sexual acts and whatever else he can find.

Ever since his mum, Sarah, was found at the bottom of the loch beside their home, Hallam has refused to consider the incident a suicide but instead blames dad’s new wife Verity. Plus, he lusts after new mom despite his suspicions and writes about his fantasies up in the tree house where he has decided to live. Malajusted doesn’t begin to cover it.

When a violent confrontation with step-mom turns disturbingly intimate, Hallam decides to bail from his family’s large estate and flee the repercussions. He ends up in the city, sleeping in a derelict part of the hotel and making money working a grimy kitchen job.

When he meets a woman who resembles (who else?) dear dead mum, he turns his voyeuristic gaze toward her and becomes involved in a nasty sexual triangle of blackmail and adultery, all while trying to get Verity turned in for the murder he is convinced took place.

Jamie Bell, who has done quite a bit of growing since his role as a ballet-dancing youngster in Billy Elliot, turns in an excellent performance as a clearly disturbed young man who veers between creepy beyond redemption and pitifully sad.

I was surprised by a reviewer’s claim that this film was inferior to the slightly silly Shia LeBeouf thriller Disturbia. While decently made, the latter film had a certain tackiness that made it hard to take seriously. The director treats the story of Mister Foe with a seriousness that helps the viewer buy into it.

If I had detected a smirk in the production, it would have sunk fast. Although this movie is ultimately has a riskier construction, is more disquieting, and has better-drawn characters than Disturbia, it was not without scenes of ridiculous implausibility. To prove my point, ladies, I present a scenario.

    The Situation: An unbalanced young man grabs you by the throat and accuses you of murder.
Your Reaction:
a. Try to talk some sense into him.
b. Fight your assailant by poking his eyes, pushing, or kicking him in the balls.
c. Jerk away and scream for help.
d. Consider his closeness liberation for your lust and grope him.

Only a die-hard masochist would pick d, so when the normally rational Verity uses the situation as a chance to cross forbidden boundaries, the originally disturbing situation becomes perversely silly. Do things like that happen outside of S&M soap operas?

I’ve always been a sucker for cinema that avoids formula, so I’ll give the gaping problems in the film a break. I’d say the best thing about the whole movie was Bell, who is an actor worth watching. The director? We’ll see.

By the end, the scarily intriguing character of Hallam avoids seemingly inevitable catastrophe, and the viewer thinks the story would have probably ended in a disaster similar to Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen. Like Ben XMister Foe takes the happy route, but since that it’s unlikely to happen except through a director’s mercy, it seems a hollow victory.
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Ben X (2007)

Ben X, Belgian director Nic Balthazar’s film debut, is an ambitious drama exploring the autistic mind and how far harassment can go before the victim loses control.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Ben (superbly played by Greg Timmermans), a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives with his well-meaning mother and younger brother. Ben spends all his free time playing Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game where he becomes Ben X and plays alongside Scarlitte, a teenage girl who is impressed by his gaming skills. The game gives him a sense of purpose in a world that becomes increasingly out of control.

Ben’s life at school, quite simply, is hell. He is relentlessly tormented by two repugnant teenage boys. His teachers try to help him but are ineffectual. The situation worsens when an embarrassing prank perpetrated on him is videotaped and posted all over the internet.

Feeling that he has no where to turn, he hides what happened from his family and teachers and becomes increasingly disturbed and suicidal. Finally, close to breaking point, Ben decides to meet with Scarlitte, who is interested in visiting him in real life. Together with Scarlitte, his divorced father, and his desperate mother, he comes up with a bizarre plan to get back at his tormenters.

I waited a long time for this movie, and as it generally is in this case, was disappointed. Which isn’t to say thatBen X is a bad film. On the contrary, it has many good qualities. The main thing that struck me was that this is one of the first times a character on the autistic spectrum takes center stage and is treated as a person, not a plot device. Often, the character with autism is used to evoke feelings from the other people in the movie or to teach them what is really important in life.

This film, without avoiding the family’s perception of the situation, concentrates on Ben and his reactions to what’s happening around him. Secondly, the acting in Ben X is top-notch, especially from Greg Timmermans and Marijke Pinoy, as Ben’s mother. Greg Timmermans has excellent facial expressions and mannerisms, and in his and the directors hands, the main character becomes a real person.

Many scenes and situations in Ben X, however, are very melodramatic and over-the-top, but the ending is its greatest weakness. Alternately bizarre and unrealistic, it detracts from an otherwise good movie. The director seems to think that neatly tying things up is more important than realism, and it shows.

The film builds up a great deal of suspense and a foreboding that something terrible will happen, but seems to wimp out toward the end. I don’t enjoy depressing endings, but I felt that the conclusion wasn’t believable at all. I am bound to cut this film some slack, because there are so few movies about high-functioning autism and because I waited a long time to watch it. Although I think it was ultimately disappointing, it also did many things right and tried to do what most directors haven’t done effectively before.

Broken (2012)

Apparently “Broken” is ‘inspired’ by Harper Lee’s much-loved classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but I find “Broken” to be a better story with more well-developed characters (yes, you have found the one person in the world who isn’t floored by “To Kill A Mockingbird”- don’t stare, please, it makes me nervous.) It’s certainly darker, as Lee’s redemptive tone is replaced with unrepentant bleakness. The racial issues have been traded in, but the themes of injustice and the destruction of innocence remain.

Spirited tween ‘Skunk’ (a powerful and expressive performance by newcomer Eloise Laurence) is stuck in that tricky transition between childhood and adulthood where matters of sexuality and maturity interest her, but are not quite within her grasp. Skunk’s father, Archie (This generation’s Atticus Finch,) (Tim Roth)  is an honorable man who loves his daughter with a fierce intensity but struggles to cope with her youthful antics.

When Skunk’s mentally challenged friend Rick (Robert Emms) is accused of rape and beaten by her redneck neighbor Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear,) Skunk is baffled just as much as Rick is- Rick has never laid a hand on Oswald’s tramp of a daughter, and treats the situation with confusion and astonishment. He is portrayed in a very fine performance by Emms (who I saw just days before as a gay superhero in “Kick-Ass 2”,) who resists the urge to overact and makes the character of Rick his own.

Tim Roth is one of my favorite actors, and he does a good job here, but the entire cast is equally worth mentioning. Eloise Laurence is adorable and charming, but also shows real acting chops as compassionate Skunk. Cillian Murphy (known for films like “Batman Begins” and “28 Days Later) plays Archie’s housekeeper’s love interest, who soon becomes the target of Oswald’s seething rage. He is flawed yet sympathetic, as are most of the characters.

I did think the myriad disasters piling up for Skunk and Rick’s families became a little bit melodramatic and hard to take. After a while it was like… really? Is there anything awful that’s NOT going to happen to these people? There also could have been more build-up in the beginning scenes, instead of revealing everything immediately.

I really liked the character of Skunk. I think the way she treats Rick says everything about her character. She acts totally like he’s a normal person and talks to him accordingly, and never thinks it’s weird that he’s a grown man and they’re friends. And her romance with local boy Dillon (George Sargeant) is appropriately chaste and really cute. She’s a sweet, strong, and hearty girl, with a keen mind and a big heart. I liked the character of Rick too. He’s a nice fellow, a little simple, and his fate saddens me.

“Broken” is a powerful film and I’m not ashamed to say I liked it better than “To Kill A Mockingbird.” So, it’s a classic. Sue me. I hope Eloise Laurence has a big career ahead of her, but she’s not the only rising star in this movie. Not many people can play the ‘mentally handicapped’ role without resorting to theatrics, and Rick is a profoundly sad and likable character. I recommend this film to drama lovers and people to like a sad, touching story.
Rating-
8.0/10

Set Me Free (Emporte-Moi) (1999)

I’ll go ahead and admit as a bad filmgoer and reviewer that I have never seen “Vivre Sa Vie” (“My Life to Live”) by Jean-Luc Godard, and I considered watching it to get some perspective before reviewing “Set Me Free.” “Set Me Free,” though not directly related to “Vivre Sa Vie” thematically, is the story of a frustrated young girl who becomes fascinated with the prostitute character, Nana, in Godard’s classic.

It’s also about growing up. And sexual awakening. And youthful confusion. And the moment as a child when you realize that you can’t save the grown-ups in your life; sometimes, you can only help them along while they choose to sink or swim, to fight against the current, or drown. It’s about the way movies influence young people, and how it’s often the one’s you wouldn’t expect that change their ideology, for better or worse.

Hanna (Katrine Vanasse) is a knowing yet naive 13-year-old who lives with her thief brother, Holocaust survivor father, and suicidally depressed mother in France. The year is 1963. Her father (Predrag Manjlovic) has a iron grip on the household. On the other hand her mother (Pascale Bussières) is as submissive and weak as her father is dominating. In an opening scene, Hanna gets her first period near her grandparent’s house, and shortly after goes back home to her parent’s.

While she was hardly happy at her grandma and grandad’s, things go from bad to worse at home. Her dad is a pretentious, lofty, and generally bad writer who fancies himself a great artist, and her mom is one twitch away from a complete nervous breakdown. Her brother Paul is a petty thief. In an opening act of general assholery, Hanna’s father spits at her mother that her’s is ‘mongoloid family’ because her brother (Hanna’s Uncle Martin) has Down Syndrome (I told myself that ‘Mongoloid’ was not such an offensive term back in the 60’s, but nah, it’s still not excusable.)

When Hanna goes to the theater and sees “Vivre Sa Vie” for the first time, she falls in love- with the movies, Anna Karina, and with Karina’s ‘glamorous’ character. From what I saw of the film within this film she is totally misreading the message of the movie, as her teacher tries to point out. But as a confused kid (sexually and in life) looking for a role model, it makes sense.

Boy, did the child actor knock it out of the park here! Hanna was a sweetheart. From what I understand, the child actress was sixteen when she did this movie, and in fact, she looks childlike in some shots and more womanly in others, probably a intentional decision on the part of the director. Hanna’s father insists on masculinizing his daughter, cropping her hair down to boy length (the hair-cutting scene reminds me of the one in “Ma Vie En Rose.”) As Dad cuts, a silent tear runs down Hanna’s cheek, and she gradually is made to feel a little more helpless.

Hanna propositions a man, maybe in hopes for a normal life or because it is the ‘thing to do’ as a girl, but exchanges intimate kisses with a female friend (Charlotte Christeler.) Does that mean she is bi, simply confused, or something else. Fed up with her family, Hanna runs away, but will a life on the streets be easier or harder than she was looking for?

The acting was fabulous, but I wished the ending had offered a little more. There seemed to be a real lack of realization, and everything get’s better quite abruptly. What was learned, except that being a ho’ isn’t all it’s cut out to be? It’s nice to have a happy ending for such a lovely character, but the story doesn’t seem to have the most logical conclusion.

“Set Me Free” is well made and most of all bittersweet and sad. It’s is based on the director Lea Pool’s life, so that makes it this much more authentic. I would love to know if filmmaker Lea Pool is gay, because that would shine a light to better understand the sexual elements of this movie. Note- You can watch this on Huluplus. Otherwise it is not available on DVD as far as I know. I hope you get the chance to watch this powerful film. Thank you.
                                                                             

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

Bloody and brilliant, “Dead Man’s Shoes” is an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. The 57% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is both a crying shame and a sacrilege, because this is Shane Meadows’ masterpiece — a film that transcends the revenge genre, delivering a heart-pounding, intense story that lets events unfold in a way that is anything but simple.

Richard (Paddy Considine) returns home from military service with no intention of living a nice quiet life and settling down. The target of his rage: a low-rent drug gang that did some terrible things to his borderline simple brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) some time before.

After Richard threatens a drug dealer and later gives him an unsettlingly twitchy apology, the gang of thugs suspect that ol’ Anthony’s brother might be a few screws short of a tool box, but don’t know how to react. Sonny (Gary Stretch), the most sadistic and smartest (and in a group like this, that’s not saying much), takes charge as best as he is able, but they are no match for Richard’s cool-headed brutality and military training.

This is when things get decidedly more ambiguous. What exactly happened to Anthony? What parts of Richard’s viewpoint are unreliable? When he faces the thug who has broken off from the gang and raised a family, Richard grows less and less sure of himself, leading to a shocking conclusion that rivals the majority of thrillers in its freshness and great writing.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Paddy Considine’s performance here is one of the best acting jobs I’ve seen. He makes Richard thoroughly believable and doesn’t stoop to any tough-guy cliches. What Richard lacks in size, he makes up for in calm, calculated violence. His performance is powerful and a testament to lesser-known actors who seem to slip through the cracks all too often.

Toby Kebbell, who gets overlooked all too often is also very good as Anthony, a simple-minded fellow whose naivete proves to be dangerous as he navigates a rough area without his older brother, who he looks up to, to protect him. He is very believable playing a mentally retarded character, and doesn’t overplay his hand or make his character a ham-fisted caricature.

The other actors never match up to Considine’s ferocious portrayal of a vengeful loner, but they do fine on their own. There’s a scene between the reformed drug dealer and his wife that is very powerful and moving, and the thugs do good job as their drug-hazed obliviousness turns to fear.

There is also some humor (mostly derived from the stupidity of the antagonists) and some tender moments between Richard and his brother. “Dead Man’s Shoes” proves there is still some smarts left in the thriller genre, and boy do I love it for that. It benefits from a smart script and a blistering performance from Paddy Considine. Watch it, and you will not be wasting your time. I didn’t waste mine.

The Living & the Dead (2006)

Not your first pick for Mother’s Day, The Living and the Dead is morbid and horrifying, and I mean that, strangely, as a compliment. It is a family drama, a psychological thriller, a tragedy, an art film, all these things at once, and and despite it’s flaws, it doesn’t overextend.

The film opens with Lord Donald Brocklebank (Roger Lloyd-Pack), a worn-down, silent shell of an old man, pushing an empty wheelchair through a quiet room. The image delivers the same feeling as a dark grey painting, lonely and despondent. He watches, lip quivering, as an ambulance pulls into his massive estate. Cut back an undetermined amount of time. Donald stands straighter. He maintains a kind of pride that must come with being one of the British elite, but he is grieving. He has a lot to grieve about.

His wife, Lady Nancy Brocklebank, is terribly sick and probably won’t be with him much longer. The bills are piling up, and they will soon lose their mansion. His son James (Leo Bill, in an over-the-top performance that works), dashes around the house with little clear purpose.

James is in his mid-to-late twenties. He is stuck in a kind of permanent childhood, the kind of childhood that is made up of nightmares, not whimsy. Although Simon Rumley, the director, describes him as “mentally challenged,” I suspect paranoid schizophrenia.

James is by far my favorite character in the film. He is a complicated movie creation, and his emotional limitations do not hold back his complexity or ambiguity as a person. Donald treats James with the casual cruelty that is most likely inflicted on the mentally ill more often than we think, condescending to him, forbidding him to use the phone or answer the door. James is desperate to prove to his father that he is an independent adult and plans to do so by taking care of his mother.

His father understandably rejects the idea. In an matter of days, James will have locked the door, shut out the nurse, skipped his pills, and may have destroyed the lives of those closest to him. Soon, as his lucidity deteriorates, the viewer begins to wonder if the past events were only in James’ head. This is a film for a patient audience — it’s a while before anything happens and the reality of the events is questionable.

The atmosphere is palpable, and the characters are well developed. There are many plot holes and unanswered questions throughout the film, as the story itself seems on the edge of reality, with its Gothic features and abstract images.

People have had different opinions on whether James is “good” or “bad.” He is a disturbing character, to be sure. He is not a sex maniac, mad slasher, or stony-faced killer, but an exceptionally childlike and deeply disturbed man. This movie might make you feel differently about a crime, in the paper, in which mental illness was a factor. Despite naysayers, The Living and the Dead is an emotional bombshell and thought-provoking film.