This week, the NCAA basketball tournament, often dubbed “March Madness,” begins. But there is another, much more dire, problem that still many people unfortunately dub as “madness.” Mental illness is a very real, and very serious, problem for millions of people across the United States and around the world. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four American adults (or 61.5 million people) experiences mental illness in a given year. Mental illness affects the sufferer and the people who love them. If you or a loved one has a mental illness, here are five movies that may give you a little insight about mental illnesses.
In “What About Bob?” Bill Murray plays the uber neurotic Bob Wiley. It is difficult to exactly pin down what mental illness Wiley has, as he seems to have a little bit of everything. Complicating matters, Wiley occasionally fakes having Tourette’s and other disorders to ensure that he does not have them. When Wiley meets the famous Dr. Leo Marvin, he becomes convinced Marvin can “cure” him. By the end of the film, it is Marvin who seems to need the therapy. Check out “What About Bob?” to find some humor amidst the pain of mental illness.
In “A Beautiful Mind,” Russell Crowe turns in a powerful performance as the brilliant but deeply troubled John Nash. In the film, Nash is on the brink of worldwide acclaim as a mathematical genius. However, Nash suffers from schizophrenia and becomes more and more paranoid as the movie progresses. Finally, Nash receives treatment for his condition and learns how to ignore the hallucinations by the end of the film. You may want to watch “A Beautiful Mind” if you or a loved one struggle with schizophrenia.
In “As Good as it Gets,” Jack Nicholson plays Melvin Udall, a writer who struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Udall is deathly afraid of germs and washes his hands constantly, amongst other compulsive acts. Due to his fears and an otherwise cranky personality, Udall does not socialize much. That all changes when he makes unexpected friendships with his gay neighbor and a waitress where he dines. “As Good as it Gets” is a fascinating movie that shows how friendship and love can help alleviate the suffering of those with mental illness.
In “Lars and the Real Girl,” Ryan Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom. Lars is an adult who lives in isolation in his brother’s garage and frequently rebuffs any attempts from his brother and pregnant sister-in-law to include him. One day, Lars surprises his brother and sister-in-law by announcing that he has a girlfriend. The trouble is, the girlfriend is a life-sized doll. Lars carries on a relationship with the doll and does not seem to notice that she is inanimate. Throughout the course of the movie, however, the doll becomes much more than that to the whole town as they support Lars in his delusions and connect to him in a way that they have previously been unable to. Watch “Lars and the Real Girl” if you are looking for an interesting and unique film.
In “About a Boy,” Hugh Grant plays Will Freeman, a man unfamiliar with any degree of difficulty who lives a hedonistic life. Freeman decides to begin attending a support group for single parents in a ploy to meet women. Through the group, Freeman is introduced to a 12-year-old boy named Marcus who figures out that Freeman is lying about being a single parent. Armed with this knowledge, Marcus blackmails Freeman and treats him as a surrogate big brother. Through this relationship, Freeman meets Marcus’ mother who is struggling with severe depression. Confronted with the realities of life for many people, Freeman begins to change and see that there is more to life than the simple pursuit of pleasure. “About a Boy” has an accurate depiction of major depressive disorder and should be on your list if you want to learn more about the disorder.
What are your favorite movies about mental illness?