Based on the novel by Ned Vizzini, this film is a recommended watch for anyone who has experienced depression, whether yourself or a someone close.
Well, it’s not really. Not for me, anyway. It’s been a long few months of a lot of negative emotions, ill health and bad luck. Hence why I’ve had no enthusiasm for writing or anything much else, for that matter. I won’t relate the whole story, but since December I’ve been through a lot: new puppy which caused my husband and I to have a mini breakdown (he’s since been re-homed to a loving family (the puppy, not my husband)); new job which didn’t work out and I’ve now been unemployed for a couple of weeks; and finally, I have developed a chest infection after EIGHT WEEKS of coughing. Thanks to which, I have also suffered 3 cracked ribs (at separate times, not all at once) due to the force of my cough. It’s safe to say that 2018 is not working out for me. Certainly not yet.
On top of everything else, I’ve recently admitted to myself that I have depression. I think it had been building for several months – frequent weekends of feeling desolate, hopeless, lonely and a failure. Mentally stuck in a deep dark rut. These feelings became more frequent during January whilst trying to wrestle the cough from hell and hold down a new job. I would find myself in tears at least once a week about things, the sheer exhaustion of my physical illness sending my head into ever darker places and affecting my mental health terribly.
I’m currently awaiting an appointment with the local mental health services to discuss my depression and see what they can do to help me. In the meantime, since leaving work I feel a little less pressured and have been able to be a bit more me than I have in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are still days when I am so drained and feel I just cannot cope, but the days in between are better. T
The other day, my husband and I found and watched a film which helped both of us understand depression from different perspectives (thank you Netflix!). Which brings me to this blog’s title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010).
Starring Keir Gilchrist as Craig, a 16-year-old boy with clinical depression, and Zach Galifianakis as Bobby, a patient in a mental health hospital, the two find an unexpected friendship in one another. Craig admits himself into the mental hospital after feeling suicidal and has to stay there for at least 5 days – in the adults’ ward because the teenage ward is under renovation. As he eventually settles in, Craig and Bobby develop an almost symbiotic relationship. Bobby mentors Craig in his somewhat abstract way, and Craig offers Bobby the support and understanding he needs to get out of hospital and give life another go (having been a patient several times previously).
I won’t delve massively into the plot as it’s fairly straightforward, with the usual predictable, inevitable and fairly unnecessary love triangle that comedy-dramas frequently have. What really got to me is how the film dealt with portraying depression. As an awkward teenage boy feeling the weight of the world ever-pressing down on him, Craig struggles to fully express in words what he’s feeling. However, the montages into his head are superb. They highlight how the seemingly smallest problem can spiral from one negative situation to multiple other imagined negative outcomes. Craig is stressing about finishing an application to college; no application = no decent college; no decent college = a shitty job; a shitty job = not getting laid + a living in a dump. All that combined leads to a miserable life and an early grave. This is the kind of awful domino effect that occurs in a depressive’s mind. You might think ‘Sure, we all have those thoughts from time to time,’ but to someone with depression these thoughts latch on and consume you and sap your energy like nothing else. Sometimes to the point that facing life the next day seems impossible. That’s when you have to recognise that you need help – like Craig and myself.
Although dealing with very serious problems, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. A lot of this is down to Bobby and his quirkiness. Galifianakis plays Bobby’s character so well that it makes you wonder whether he has his own understanding of genuine mental health issues. Bobby comes across as a guy who knows himself well, knows what he needs, and yet is still pretty unstable as he screams into a couch cushion and tears down the bookshelves after failing an interview for housing. He’s straight talking and a bit of a rebel without being cocky, quite guarded with his own stories and feelings, yet willing to help others. Quite an endearing mix – you find yourself liking him immediately with his fuzzy dishevelled head of hair and beard. Despite still harbouring a serious illness and a tragic background, Bobby provides the light relief of the film thanks to Galifianakis’ blunt and quirky acting.
So, as time goes on with Craig getting to know the other patients and discovering more about himself, he finds a relief in art and draws ‘mind maps’. They’re literally like a kind of birds’ eye perspective of a street map (in a really cool style), but represent the winding, complicated roads of his brain. Simple, but I found that a very clever way to portray art as catharsis. Not just expressive with colours, but actually drawing and mapping out the problem. For many people with depression, art can provide a great deal of relief – I’m just beginning to find that myself a little too.
With lessons being learned, emotions realised and thoughts more under control, Craig reaches the end of his 5 day stay in a more stable, happier mindset than when he went in. And this, being the end of the film, is the bit that really, really got to me – all thanks to another very good heartfelt montage. It was basically just Craig listing all the things that he or anyone can go out and do, now that he has hope and can see the good in things. It sounds really silly, and you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘Why get choked up about that?’, but it brought me to tears of relief and hope as I was reminded that no matter how awful things seem to be, you can still go out and take a walk, skip, at a burrito, paint each other’s faces, get messy, ride a bike and all the other fun things that life is made up – the things you enjoyed once upon a happier time.
So that, dear reader, is why I hail It’s Kind of a Funny Story as quite possibly the best film I’ve watched in years. It meant something to me, it reaffirmed life for me, inspired me to write this post and do things I enjoy again. Put simply, it reminded me that there is fun to be had out there, and often you have to make that fun yourself. Acknowledge certain problems and if you can change it, try to do so. But from time to time forget the serious business of life, dwelling on them makes for a miserable, laughterless existence. Embrace the freedom of being human and the pure fact that we are able to enjoy things. Because in the end, we all die, and life truly is what you make of it.
There will still be dark days for me, but even though I’m jobless and fighting the worst cough in history, I’m going to try and see the positive in things and, well, have some fun.