A depressed teen checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward where he finds that things may not be as bad as they seem.
Directed by – Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by – Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Ned Vizzini
Starring – Keir Gilchrist, Dana DeVestern, Emma Roberts, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Karen Chilton, Zach Galifianakis, Aasif Mandvi, Jared Goldstein, Alan Aisenberg, Zoe Kravitz, Thomas Mann, Jeremy Davies, Rosalyn Coleman, Viola Davis, Lou Myers, MacIntyre Dixon, Bernard White, Novella Nelson, Matthew Maher, Molly Hager, Ato Blankson-Wood, Adrian Martinez, Daniel London, Leo Allen, Morgan Murphy, Billy McFadden, Mary Birdson, Ben Folstein, Stewart Steinberg
While some may think that this flick takes its subject matter a little lightly, it’s that exact fact that made me enjoy this one so much. How many people did I know as a teenager (so many years ago now) that had the same type of outlook as lead character Craig (Keir Gilchrist). He’s depressed and under what seems like a lot of pressure and constantly dreams of taking his life. He checks himself into the psych ward, kind of by accident, and finds that life isn’t really all that bad. Alright, I don’t know anyone that had to take a vacation in the psych ward but I can think of plenty of kids who were constantly depressed even though their lives weren’t all that bad. Hell, even I was one of those kids. This one should be required viewing for any kind with a nice life that starts to whine about being depressed. Don’t get me wrong, depression is no joke. Lets be honest and admit that at least a portion of people suffering from it just need a little slap on the hand. I know I did.
Craig (Gilchrist) is a typical teenager. He loves a girl who happens to be dating his friend and is facing some pressure from his dad to get into a summer program that he thinks will lead him to getting into a great college one day. All of this leads to him getting anxiety and suffering from depression so he heads to the hospital for some help. He accidentally gets himself checked into the psych ward where he’s forced to stay for at least 5 days so they can make sure there’s really nothing wrong with him. It’s here where he meets Bobby, (Zach Galifianakis) a guy who takes Craig under his wing to show him the ins and outs of the ward and maybe give Craig some help with his problems. Craig also meets Noelle, (Emma Roberts) a girl who Craig starts to fall for.
I once had only hatred for Galifianakis but the last few performances I’ve seen from him have managed to change my mind. Here he delivers a very quiet performance, thankfully, as a dad struggling with his life. His problems may be big but they’re not explored too much as the focus is much more on the character of Craig. Galifianakis does an amazing job and the bond that he quickly forms with Craig is sweet in a sort of big brother kind of way. While we see Craig slowly understand that not dealing with his problems will only lead him to the same place that Bobby is in, we get to see Bobby wish that he had done things differently as he realizes that Craig isn’t that much different than he was. Bobby seems to get the courage to deal with his problems by helping Craig understand how to deal with his. They make a great onscreen pair being both funny and dramatic and forming a friendship that feels genuine.
Even better is Keir Gilchrist as Craig. He perfectly fits the role as the teen who is depressed, or sort of depressed, at least he thinks he is. He becomes more and more confident as he realizes that there’s bigger things to worry about in life than girls and summer school. The fact that he’s actually really talented as an artist and extremely smart only makes the fact that he’s depressed more annoying though. That’s what is so great about the entire film. It’s this point that struck me as so familiar, both from my own life and the lives of others around me. I’m sure you’d have a hard time finding a teenager that wasn’t depressed at some point in their life but I bet that half of them (at the very least) really had nothing to be depressed about, much like Craig in the film. At that point in your life it’s hard to imagine there could ever be bigger problems and I’m going to make sure to keep this one around for when one of my kids starts getting mopey about something.
The movie is certainly a very light look at mental illness which might bother some. One review I read felt that they didn’t take the story seriously enough. To me that’s kind of the point though. This isn’t supposed to be a deep, meaningful movie, although it does have some great moments in it. I felt it really showed the kind of life some teenagers actually have where depression is something they suffer from when they shouldn’t have to. I think the film had a greater impact on me because I could very easily relate to Craig and his story mirrors the same sort of feelings and problems I had myself as a teen. Of course I wasn’t as impressive with a pencil and paper and never got the girl so easily but I certainly thought life was a lot harder than it actually was. The movie just felt very sweet the whole time and when I wasn’t laughing I was sitting with a smile on my face. Had they taken the subject matter to a serious point the film would have been a chore to sit through.
Under the marquee – Will