12 Movies You Didn’t Notice Were About Mental Illness

Disturbed cartoon characters, neurotic comedy leads and sad superheroes.

There have been some amazing films that focus on mental illness, from One Flew Over the Cuckoo€™s Nest and A Beautiful Mind to Girl, Interrupted and Fight Club, but the disorders in these movies €“ whether Russell Crowe€™s schizophrenic mathematician or Edward Norton€™s dissociative identity disorder suffering Generation X-er €“ are all overtly dealt with. Some films, however, approach the issue much more subtly. At face value a film might simply be a funny comedy, a warm-hearted children€™s film or an action-packed fantasy but look between the lines and you€™ll find a whole host of clues that hint towards much darker possibilities: clinically depressed comedy leads, troubled superheroes and cartoon characters with more neuroses than you can shake a stick at. Some of the films here might seem like a stretch (can all those Disney characters really be mad? Answer: yes they can), but bear with us while we indulge in a spot of cinematic psychoanalysis. Caution is advised though: we€™re about to put a whole new sad spin on some of your favourite movies.

12. Groundhog Day

Bill Murray€™s deadpan performance in Groundhog Day as increasingly desperate TV weatherman Phil Connors has gone down in comedy history, but while it€™s often been dismissed as man going through a midlife crisis, Harold Ramis€™ fantasy film might actually be a thinly veiled message about mental illness. Some interpret Phil as suffering chronic déjà vu, a rare disorder which is basically like regular déjà vu except more intense and frequent, which some scientists believe is triggered by anxiety. Not too wild an interpretation as he is indeed living the same day over and over, but this isn€™t the only suggested reading of Groundhog Day and lots of psychiatrists believe the film is a metaphor for psychoanalysis. One essay called Revisiting Groundhog Day: Cinematic Depiction of the Mutative Process has some particularly clever things to say about the film: €˜The device of repetition becomes a representation of developmental arrest and closure from object relatedness. Repetition also becomes a means of escape from his characterological dilemma.€™ Which is basically the grounds of psychoanalysis: revisiting a pattern of destructive behaviour in order to break it. But beyond deep and meaningful interpretations Phil is clearly a man quite literally stuck in a rut, a feeling many people suffering from depressive disorders can identify with, which paints those comedic suicide attempts in a whole new light.

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