- Latest reviews posted on: October 21, 2009
SPECIALIZED FILM REVIEWS…
FOCUSING ON MOVIES THAT FEATURE…
PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS & TREATMENT
ALCOHOL & DRUG PROBLEMS & TREATMENT
INTERPERSONAL CONFLICTS & LIFE CRISES
MENTAL HEALTH & PSYCHOSOCIAL ISSUES
Thank you for visiting my film review website, specializing in movies with psychiatric, mental health and substance abuse themes. I regret the long lapse between earlier entries and the present. I will now be posting new reviews again on a regular basis. So welcome, or welcome back!
This site offers brief capsules, longer reviews, and articles fully linked by film title and by specific psychiatric, psychological and sociological themes. So far there are postings for more than 555 films, new and old. For a list of my most recent review postings, click on "Reviews" in the index to the left. There are also listings and reviews of other on-line and print resources on psychiatric themes in the movies, and a listing of events that showcase these themes. Enjoy! --- Roland Atkinson
By the way, check out my other film review website, AtkinsonOnFilm.com, for current and past general feature film reviews.
Copyright notice: All reviews and articles posted on this website were written by Roland Atkinson, © Roland Atkinson, 1999 through 2009, unless otherwise noted.
The purpose of this site is to provide useful listings and reviews of films worldwide that portray psychiatric themes. I aim for a fairly extensive list, including the best films, the ones that offer the most authentic portrayals, or in some cases the most humorous, and occasionally the worst, so viewers aren't misled. I try to cover all feature films that depict mental health themes: new and old, dramatized and documentary, in all languages (it turns out that roughly 75% are English language films and the others have English subtitles).
Themes include portrayals of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at work; people suffering from various mental disorders, alcohol and drug problems, interpersonal conflicts and life crises; treatment of these problems; and contemporary psychological, social, ethical and moral issues that bear on "mental health," broadly defined. I value accurate portrayals and try to promote these because I believe that such movies can contribute to better informed, more accepting public attitudes toward psychiatric illness and responses to adversity. Such films are also useful for teaching mental health trainees and others.
I also value high standards for drama and filmcraft, and try to rate movies based on dramatic and cinematic quality as well as psychiatric content. I emphasize recent films because they are more apt to appeal to contemporary audiences. Most films reviewed here are available on VHS and/or DVD formats, though you may have to look beyond your corner rental shop to find some of the more obscure ones. (Some real gems come from places like Belgium, Iceland and South Korea.) And don't forget your public library as a resource.
Useful websites to access more information and reviews on films cited here are: the Movie Review Query Engine and the Internet Movie Data Base. The Netflix on-line rental service is excellent for foreign films, if you live far from a specialty rental shop.
I'm Roland Atkinson, a Professor of Psychiatry at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Before coming to Oregon, I trained and worked in West Los Angeles for several years. What a feast for a film nut! Katherine Hepburn sitting down in front of me at a Saturday matinee. Spotting Burt Lancaster or Lee Marvin at the old Bel Air Country Store (gone now, sad to say). At UCLA, taking care of Alfred Hitchcock's wife, Alma, during her annual medical checkup when I was an intern; and hearing Dr. Ralph Greenson discuss his psychiatric treatment of the late Marilyn Monroe.
I see 200 or more feature films a year, counting theater screenings and DVD/VHS. I review films - from a psychiatric and psychological perspective - for several professional publications, including the nationally distributed monthly, Clinical Psychiatry News, published by the Elsevier International Medical News Group. My reviews are enriched in style and substance through conversations with my partner, Jo Ann Weaver, a discerning film observer in her own right and a terrific editor.
I have also advised advanced student and professional scriptwriters on creating authentic portrayals of psychiatric and substance use disorders and their treatment through a pro bono program sponsored by the Entertainment Industries Council. E.I.C. is a non-profit, Hollywood-based organization supported by the commercial film and television industries; its efforts to advocate for authenticity of substance abuse portrayals in films and teleplays have been supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Reviews and Ratings
Review structure: Each review begins with the film's title, and then, in parentheses, the name(s) of the director(s), country(ies) of origin of the film, the year it was first distributed in the U.S., and, in my latest postings, the film's length in minutes. Next shown are the major psychiatric and psychosocial themes depicted in the film, in caps. Following the main text of the review, if the film is spoken in a foreign language, that language is indicated in parentheses (foreign language films available in the U.S. have English subtitles). Then letter "grades" are given, followed, in parentheses, by the date (month/year) when I saw the film (or saw it most recently) and wrote this review about it.
Spoiler policy: Many films are structured to build suspense or lead viewers to form premature conclusions about how the story will evolve or mistaken judgments about the integrity of characters. The viewer's erroneous notions are corrected by the insertion of pivotal events or crucial new information well into the story or near the end. Part of the art of film reviewing, I believe, is to find ways to discuss a film that convey its essential themes and qualities without giving away these secrets ("spoilers"). On the other hand, many visitors to a site like this one will already have seen some of the films described here, especialy the classics and older movies.
Other visitors may be shopping for films for use with patients or mental health professionals and trainees. Depending upon the target audience, it may be important for you to know in advance of any big surprises, especially adverse or shocking events. And there are some films the value of which simply cannot be weighed without considering spoiler information. So I have tried to steer a middle course: avoiding disclosure of spoilers whenever possible but including them when I feel you need to know about them to understand the film or weigh its appropriateness for your purposes. When I include such information, I display the warning SPOILER ALERT! at the beginning of the review.
Ratings: I give each film a letter grade, from A through F. I understand the pros and cons of declaring simple global film ratings or grades. I agree that by doing so one risks pandering to the questionable desire many people have for acquiring information on the cheap - in "bites" and "sidebars" - habits of our TV News/"USA Today" culture. Such oversimplifying can demean good films and viewers alike. And grades do have an arbitrary aspect. There might not be much difference in quality between a film I grade A- versus B+.
Nevertheless, I think there is some value in reviewers laying on the line their global "take" on a film. Grades can be a healthy foil for equivocation. They tell the reader point blank where the critic stands. And there is a distinct difference between films I grade A versus B-. Sometimes the depiction of psychiatric themes in a film may be superior to its overall dramatic quality, or vice versa. In such instances, I will offer different grades for these attributes. As far as recommending a film to others, I draw the line at B-. Any film I rate C+ or lower means I don't feel comfortable suggesting that you spend your time or money seeing it. I will highlight some truly bad films - real stinkers - by displaying the warning CONSUMER ALERT!