By Danielle Rice || Arts & Leisure Editor
Netflix is always releasing new movies. In the past couple of months, it has released several interesting ones which happen to include or focus on mental health and mental illness. These are always important topics, and film can be a way of helping to destigmatize and shed light on certain viewpoints and voices that are not always heard. Here are a few of the recent, especially noteworthy films I have seen.
As an avid Taylor Swift fan growing up, I was intrigued when I saw her new documentary on Netflix, Miss Americana (2020). Before watching it, I would have claimed I knew most things about her; however, I was shocked by all of the things that I learned. Most of all, I was shocked by how many of her sentiments I shared. The documentary follows her career, from its start in 2006 when she was 14, until her most recent album release last year. Although it follows her career, it allows for a close look at her personal life, revealing many intimate thoughts, feelings, and moments with the world. It effectively shows her depth as a person and humanizes her, which is the opposite of what the media has done for years. I found the documentary so impactful because it shows Swift’s journey through life, and the growth she has experienced that has led her to become the person she is today. It covers so much, from her struggles with body image issues to her coming to the realization that she had spent so much of her life focusing on being a “good” person. Like any other documentary about a musical artist, it also has moments showing the “behind the scenes” of her creating songs for her albums. Another aspect I found very interesting was the process of Swift publicizing her political stance. Despite many of her advisors pressuring her not to do it, she had such strong beliefs that she felt she could not stay silent if her voice could make a difference in the election. It is an eye-opening documentary, and I recommend anyone and everyone to watch it!
By director Brad Anderson, the psychological thriller Fractured (2019) focuses on a man and his family, who are on a road trip around Thanksgiving time. When they stop at a gas station, his young daughter falls into a construction site and breaks her arm, so the parents rush to the nearest hospital. After the father, Ray, goes to wait for his daughter and wife to come back from getting a CT scan, the front desk, and eventually the whole hospital staff, assures him that there is no record of his daughter being admitted. Ray then goes to extreme measures to find his family and bring them to safety. This movie will make you question your sanity as you experience events through Ray’s eyes. The acting stood out, and the intense, mind-bending plotline made this film a must-see.
Although Horse Girl is a 2020 film, watching it, you might believe it was made much earlier. The psychological drama was directed by Jeff Baena and co-written with Alison Brie, who also stars as the main character, Sarah. The film centers on Sarah’s life as a young adult, working at a crafts store, seeing her old horse, and visiting her mother’s grave. It employs comedy to show some of Sarah’s awkward interactions, such as her trying to ask people in her zumba class to celebrate her birthday with her and her trying to give advice to the girl who is learning to ride her old horse, even though she has no affiliation with the stable. Throughout these experiences, Sarah comes off as sweet and well-intended but is often unable to fit in. We see her have strange dreams and start to sleep walk, and we soon watch her begin to spiral into insanity. She starts to believe that she is a clone of her dead grandmother and that she is being abducted by aliens. Her paranoia seems to get worse and worse, and she is even checked into a mental health facility. Despite the movie focusing on Sarah and showing some of the things that she saw, the viewer, grounded by other characters in the movie, doesn’t believe that what she is experiencing is true but that it was in her head. I thought some of the aspects of Sarah’s life shown were somewhat arbitrary and didn’t seem to tie nicely together in the end. Horse Girl is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and although the film had its flaws, I think it’s an interesting depiction of mental illness, and I think viewers would get something out of it.
Sophomore Danielle Rice is the Arts & Leisure Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.