Enlightening Movies About Depression That Put Everything Into Perspective
In recent years, speaking about mental health has become more common than in the past. Removing the stigma behind talking about these issues is prevalent in our society and no longer is the phrase “they’re just sad” taken so lightly.
Experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues cannot be easily explained. Causes can be a result of trauma, abuse, grief, or even family traits, but can also arise from various other factors.
The most outworldly positive people can also fall into a state of constructing negative thoughts about their lives and the world. Sometimes doing your best still isn’t enough and this can be a spiraling effect. Everyone has a story to tell and no one is the same.
Below, I have listed thoughtful movies that provide different perspectives of depression. All except “Prozac Nation” depict fictional stories.
With a 2001 Canadian release date and a 2005 U.S. release date, “Prozac Nation” is a classic film based on the autobiography of journalist Eliazbeth Wurtzel, who at a young age began suffering with atypical depression and controlled her mental health through prescribed drug, Prozac.
The film stars Christina Ricci as Elizabeth “Lizzie” Wurtzel and Jessica Lange as her mother.
Lizzie is a 19 year old journalism student at Harvard University. She comes from a broken home and hasn’t spoken to her father in four years. Her mother is neurotic and extremely hypercritical. Her relationship with her parents has complicated her mental health and her relationship with men.
Lizzie begins drinking, pulling all nighters to write, and alienating those around her. Her emotional stability begins to drop and she begins getting psychiatric help which leads to her receiving a prescription for Prozac.
The prescription drug helps Lizzie with her depression and suicidal thoughts, but she begins to wonder what life would be without them.
“Little Miss Sunshine”
“Little Miss Sunshine” is as dysfunctional as can be. Rated R and released in 2006, the movie showcases the Hoover family as they road trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California for a “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant.
With little to no money, the family decides to roadtrip to their destination in their old yellow Volkswagen, which has more car issues than expected along the way.
The family of six is portrayed by Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, and Alan Arkin. Each character, despite the youngest, has their own mental health issues, which adds to the dysfunctionality of the family.
Sheryl, the mother, is overworked. Her husband, Richard, is a Type A personality attempting to become a life coach. Her gay brother, Frank, has recently moved in with the family after a failed suicide attempt. Her son, Dwayne, has taken a vow of silence until he becomes a pilot. Richard’s father, Edwin, now lives with the family as well after being evicted from his retirement home after having been caught snorting heroin. The youngest of the family, Olive, dreams of becoming a beauty pageant queen and is coached by her grandfather Edwin.
They must all come together to get the youngest Hoover, Olive, to her beauty pageant on time to compete for the title of “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Along the way, they all must learn to deal with each other in a healthy way or fall apart while doing so.
“A Single Man”
Starring Colin Firth as George Falconer, “A Single Man” tells the story of a British English professor living in 1960s Los Angeles and dealing with his partner’s, Jim, death.
Unable to cope with life, George decides it's time for the end. He goes about his day, getting his affairs in order, and preparing to commit suicide later in the evening. He ends up spending his day with people who can see just how sad he truly is, including a male prostitute, one of his male students, and an old female friend named Charley, portrayed by Julianne Moore.
George is able to come to terms with his grief regarding losing Jim, but unfortunate events lead to an unlikely ending.
“A Single Man” was the directorial debut for fashion designer, Tom Ford, received positive reviews and holds an 85 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Veronika Decides to Die”
Released in 2009, and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, “Veronika Decides to Die” follows the story of Veronika, a 20 something with a successful life full of materialistic things.
Despite all her success, Veronika suffers from depression and finds no meaning to her life. She decides to overdose on pills as a suicide attempt.
To her surprise, Veronika wakes up in a mental health institution, having survived the overdose. However, her attempt at suicide has deteriorated her health and is at risk of an aneurysm, which could end her life at any moment.
During her stay at the hospital, she becomes close to another patient, Edward, who suffers from schizophrenia.
As her relationship with Edward deepens, Veronika begins to find new meaning to her life and a newfound will to live.
“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”
Released in 2010 and starring Keir Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, Zack Galifianakis, and Viola Davis, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” follow 16 year old Craig Gilner during his one week stay in a hospital psychiatric ward.
Stressed because of school, his father’s expectations, and his overall adolescence, Craig finds himself ready to jump off the Brookyln Bridge and commit suicide. Instead of jumping, he willingly checks himself into a mental health clinic, at first unaware that he must permanently be admitted for a week long stay.
Because the youth wing is undergoing renovations, he is placed on the adult floor, with patients of all ages. While dealing with his depression in the hospital, Craig meets and befriends two individuals. One, Bobby, a middle aged man with suicidal tendencies, and Noelle, a teenage girl who is also dealing with her own personal demons.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
Released in 2012 and described as a coming of age film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was named one of the best films in the year by MTV, Us Weekly, and Complex magazine.
The film stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller.
Logan Lerman portrays Charlie, a teenager about to start his freshman year of high school in 1992. What his peers don’t know about Charlie is that he spent his summer in a mental health care institution and that the year prior, Charlie’s bestfriend commited suicide.
From a young age, Charlie himself has dealt with clinical depression and anxiety, for reasons unknown until the end of the film.
Charlie is shy and finds it difficult to make friends, other than his English teacher, who immediately sees Charlie’s love for literature.
During a football game, Charlie meets two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who happen to be step siblings. Charlie is immediately accepted into Sam and Patrick’s friend group.
When tensions between Charlie and his friends arise, he finds himself alone and falling back into a depressive state. After regaining his friendship with the group, Charlie’s mental health continues to worsen but he does his best to hide it.
When the school year ends and his friends go off to college, Charlie is once again left all alone. His emotional state plummets and he breaks. Haunted by repressed childhood memories, Charlie experiences a panic attack that sends him back to the hospital.
“The Skeleton Twins”
Starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, “The Skeleton Twins” follows Milo and Maggie as they try and figure out where their lives went wrong.
The movie starts with their individual stories, Milo leaving a suicide note and cutting his wrists in Los Angeles. Across the country, in New York, Maggie is about to swallow a handful of pills when she receives a call, alerting her of her brother’s failed suicide attempt.
Maggie travels to Los Angeles to visit Milo in the hospital and invites him to indefinitely live with her in New York. Their interaction at the hospital is their first in ten years, having lost communication years prior.
In New York, Milo meets his sister’s loving husband, Lance. Throughout the movie it is shown that Maggie’s seemingly perfect marriage to Lance is one sided. While he is the perfect husband, she doesn't feel worthy of him and cheats as well as takes birth control pills to prevent them from having children, which he dearly wants.
Meanwhile, Milo attempts to rekindle a relationship with Rich, his high school Engish teacher, with whom he had a sexual relationship at age 15.
Maggie and Milo’s newfound relationship with each other eventually reaches a tipping point. The two must come to terms with their destructive life choices which until now, they have been using as methods of coping with their depression.
Showcasing Jennifer Aniston in a dramatic role, “Cake” follows Claire Bennet years after surviving a car accident that killed her son and sent her into a depressive state. The death of her son complicated her marriage and years later, her husband has finally left her.
Claire now suffers from chronic pain due to the accident and attends a support group as well as takes physical therapy classes. She takes many medications and even travels to Tijuana, Mexico to purchase additional pain medications. Claire has become an angry person and really has no close personal relationships, other than her housekeeper, Silvana, who has stuck by her side through it all.
When a member of her support group, Nina, commits suicide, Claire befriends her widowed husband, who is angry at his deceased wife for leaving him and their five year old son. Throughout the movie, Claire experiences hallucinations of Nina.
Events lead to Claire overdosing on pain pills. After her hospital stay, another hallucinated conversation with Nina makes Claire come to the realization that despite everything, she was a good mother to her son.
The New York Times described “Melancholia” as a film that portrays the “acute anguish and the paralyzing hollowness of depression.”
The film was released in 2011 and is the second movie of director Lars von Trier’s unofficially titled “Depression Trilogy.” Inspiration for the film came from one of his depressive episodes in life.
The movie is told in two parts, following the stories of two sisters, portrayed by Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The events of the film are surrounded by an impending disaster, the destruction of Earth by a collision with the planet, Melancholia.
The film opens with Justine, portrayed by Dunst, who is experiencing the happiest day of her life, her wedding day. However, Justine is anything but happy. She finds everything in life pointless and is therefore incredibly impulsive. Her sister, who paid for the wedding, is struggling to deal with the fact they are all about to die.
The movie as a whole, and the fake planet about to destroy Earth, serve as a metaphor for how destructive depression can be.
Different from the other movies described, “Side Effects” tells the story of a woman who faked her mental health issues. For fans of movies like “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” I definitely recommended giving “Side Effects” a watch for a story like no other!
Released in 2013, the movie stars Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The film follows Emily Taylor, who after her husband is arrested falls into a depressive state, attempts suicide, and begins to find help from a psychiatrist. When her husband is released after four years, she hopes her life will go back to normal. But when it doesn't, she falls into a deeper state of depression.
Her psychiatrist, Jonathon Banks, decides to prescribe her an experimental drug after all other prescriptions fail to help. However, the side effects of the new drug ruin Emily’s life and Jonathon’s reputation and career.
Mental health is no joke and should be taken seriously. I encourage you to reach out to your friends and let them know that in any case, you are there to provide support and help.
It is important to note that World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th every year and if you need to talk to someone or want to refer a friend, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours a day.