Have you seen the 2012 film, Silver Linings Playbook, starring my absolute favorite duo, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper? Well, if you have, then you know the reason for my obsession and if you haven’t, YOU SHOULD! But rest assured, nothing within this post will give away any major spoilers. I will be discussing one of the major themes within it – mental illness – in nonspecific terms as far as the plot. So you can decide whether to continue reading or not if you have yet to experience this amazing piece of cinema.
The first time I watched this film it was with my (now ex) boyfriend who also suffers from a mood disorder. We went into it with no idea about the theme or story line. It had Jennifer Lawrence in it and that was all I needed to know! But when the credits started to role and I hit the lights back on in my bedroom, I could tell that it had hit him in the same place it had me.
This movie (based on the 2008 debut novel by Matthew Quick), had tackled something that you don’t always see in the film industry. They attempted to show only mental illness, which we see thrown at us everyday from TV shows such as Criminal Minds to the latest movie, Split, that portrays having a split personality disorder as the equivalent to being a psycho kidnapper/murderer, but with Silver Linings Playbook, we see the side of recovery and how hard it can be. We are shown a more realistic play-by-play of 2 individuals that have been diagnosed and struggle with Bipolar Disorder. You are put in their world as they struggle to hold onto themselves through their treatment process while also trying to stay “sane” in the way that society depicts.
My boyfriend and I couldn’t believe how close to home this movie hit, how accurate it was. But it wasn’t until I watched it the second time that I really understood the power that it could have to those who don’t struggle with a mood disorder, as well.
The second viewing of this film for me was with my Grandma, who is an absolutely amazingly strong woman who would give you the shirt off her back if you asked. She had been born in Florida and had grown up in a different time and a different social climate in more ways than one, but bless her heart, she tries very hard to keep an open mind and heart, even to those she doesn’t quite understand. Those that suffer with mental illness, including me, her granddaughter, were one of those anomalies in that she knew it was a real thing and something I struggled with but she couldn’t quite grasp it, what it was and why it caused things to happen to me with seemingly no reason (at least that she could see).
The night I had gone to her house for movie night, she asked that I bring a few movies that were newer, and Silver Linings Playbook was one that I grabbed in a stack of DVDs from my house. I am not sure how we ended up picking it and I had no second thought about the subject matter. It was a good movie and that’s what I told her. And so we watched it.
Again, the credits rolled and I got up to turn the lights on in her bedroom and take the DVD out of the player. When I clambered back onto the bed next to her, she looked at me in a way I had never seen her look before.
“I never knew it was like that for you,” she said.
I looked back at her and smiled and told her just how accurate certain parts were to my own story. She told me she never understood why I would do certain things, like crawl out onto the roof of my house ready to jump when I was very young and needing to be coaxed in by her since she had been on babysitting duty. She couldn’t grasp the concept of being sad for “no reason,” of wanting to kill myself. But that movie gave her perspective.
It had been filmed in such a way that she was able to watch the characters’ journeys through the treatment process and understand things a little bit better. She saw how things weren’t always black and white, happy or sad, and that one little magic pill didn’t make everything all better. On occasion, until you find your “cocktail,” they can make things worse, as shown in the film. Those around you that love and care for you have to go through the roller coaster right along side you through the treatment process feeling helpless and just as scared as you. Silver Linings Playbook illustrated both sides of the process so directly and powerfully that it moved my Grandma to the point of utter appreciation for me and for everyone who struggles with similar illnesses.
I had no idea that it would have such an impact on her. I had never even known she felt so lost regarding my illness and how to be there for me. It was an absolutely beautiful thing to watch her gain that understanding. It brought us closer and I think even gave my Gram some perspective regarding others in her life who are most likely struggling with the same thing.
I implore you, if you yourself have not seen this movie, watch it. If you struggle to express your feelings with those in your life, share this it with them. There is so much talk about mental health awareness, special tattoos, ribbons, clubs, and more, but where is the awareness in the arguably most influential source – entertainment? As I stated earlier, there is plenty out there where mental illness is portrayed, but it usually plays the “bad guy.” You never see the other side, the human side, the actual reality of it.
Understanding and help can come in the most unusual forms sometimes and we need to take hold of it and share it. You never know whose life you are going to change for the better simply by spreading the word.