Friday, 12 April 2013

Looking for the Silver Lining?

Hi all

I recently saw, "Silver Linings Playbook", the Oscar winning film which centres around two people with mental health issues, one being bi polar. I wanted to see if this film lived up to its plaudits. I was certainly hoping for a sensitively framed production seeing as David O Russell, the director and writer, has a son with mental health problems. I am glad to say that I was not disappointed, the film is touching, funny and emotional and worthy of the hype.

There were some points about the film which I found interesting as a trainee psychotherapist:

  • Pat's (played by Bradley Cooper) shrink has some interesting techniques. He tests Pat by playing his wedding song in the waiting room before his therapy to see if it still can trigger an episode. Then after accidentally bumping into Pat, his client, at a football game, the shrink proceeds to follow his client to Pat's house afterwards, and then to Pat's dance competition. 
  • The film shows the tremendous highs and lows of bi polar and how moods can change incredibly quickly. For example at one point  in the middle of the night, Pat is quietly reading a book in his room and then when he doesn't like the ending, he throws the book at his window, smashing it and then wakes up his parents (and his street) with his complaints about the author.
  • The film also shows the pure honesty and lack of social filter which is common amongst people with mental health issues. In the first meeting in the film between Pat and his father, played by Robert De Niro, Pat immediately confronts his father over losing his job and his bookmaking activities (which was news his mother told Pat in secret before hand). 
  • Both lead characters find focus, discipline and release through a creative medium, being dance.
  • Although its Pat who is in therapy, his father appears to demonstrate some of the signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the film including a preoccupation with deciding upon the placement of the remote controls and performing rituals before a football game.
  • Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, explains to Pat during one of their running sessions that she likes all the different parts of herself, including the slutty part (her words, not mine!) and she asks Pat is he could say the same about himself. For me, Tiffany's statement sounds like she has accepted and forgiven her own shadow, which is an essential part of a person's individual growth. 
  • There a couple of very small scenes where a neighbour's son knocks on the door asking if he can interview Pat about his mental health. This I feel is a clever way of showing some of the stigma and voyeurism attached to conditions such as bi polar.
  • One of Pat's key mantras in the film which helps him manage his condition is "Excelsior" (a Latin word meaning ever upward).  Later on in the film, Pat's father places a high risk bet which he feels is a sure thing when he discovers that Excelsior is a term shared by his son and the State of New York which was related to the bet. This reminds me of Jung's concept of synchronicity, or maybe more someone trying to find connections to provide comfort (which could be OCD related).

Here's the trailer to Silver Linings in case you want to check it out:

Seeing this film has inspired me to come up with my personal top films which feature mental health issues:
  • One flew over a cuckoo's nest - Jack Nicholson causing a riot in a mental health hospital. I first saw this film on a leadership weekend with school, say no more!
  • Silver linings playbook - enough said already
  • As Good as it Gets - Jack Nicholson again (pattern emerging?) playing a character with severe OCD, especially regarding germs and walking on the cracks in the pavement).
    As Good as it Gets
  • Rainman (Dustin Hoffman's performance as the autistic brother of Tom Cruise won him an Oscar)
  • Girl, Interrupted (This time the women gets a bit crazy in this one, Oscar winning performance from Angelina Jolie)
  • Aviator -  Leonardo Di Caprio plays Howard Hughes, showing the torment the great innovator suffered later on in his career with very severe OCD.

I'd like to end this month's blog on one of Pat's main motto's from the film, which is if you work hard, stay positive and then we all have a shot at the silver lining! Well said indeed.

Till next month

Take care