If you're interested, Judge Daryl Loomis provides lobotomies out of the back of his van.
Take your best day and your darkest moment…and multiply by a million.
For most of the history of medicine, mental illness was not viewed as something to be treated, but something to be hidden or destroyed. Lobotomies and electroshock therapy left people ruined, but because the episodes no longer appear, the procedures were deemed successful. Sometime in the not-too-distant past, the psychiatric field thankfully started to rethink those old ways and started looking at mental illness for what it is: an illness of the brain that is hardly different than an illness of the body. Treatment is obviously different, but the mentality behind it has become increasingly similar. What hasn't changed so much, though, is the stigma and shame that gets attached to it by those who suffer and those around them.
Of Two Minds is a documentary that tries to take steps to eliminate that problem in those who suffer from bipolar disorder. By demystifying and personalizing the illness, it brings to the surface the obvious but often overlooked fact that these people are all around us, living lives like everybody else, except that they struggle with switching between extreme manic highs and depressive lows.
Directors Douglas Blush and Lisa J. Klein (who dedicated the film to her bipolar sister) spend time with many people with bipolar disorder, but mainly focus on four people. Liz, a magazine editor, became a minor internet celebrity through her online videos discussing how she copes with the disorder. Carlton is an older artist who was diagnosed later in his life and spent years living a marginalized lifestyle, but has recovered enough to now live a healthy life. Finally, we have Cheri and Petey, an on and off couple dealing with the disorder. Cheri was diagnosed years ago and, when they started dating, Petey was cool with it. It wasn't until he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well, that the main problems started. His lack of acceptance and refusal to seek help become overwhelming to both himself and Cheri, ripping the relationship apart.
These three scenarios paint a very strong picture of living with bipolar disorder, something that people with or without mental illness can understand. At one point, Cheri, in discussing the stigma of mental illness, talks about how it's spoken of, that people say, "I am bipolar," when talking to people, while people with a body disease will never say, "I am cancer." That idea is one of the strongest in the film, that those with the disorder personalize it and, often, make it a large part of their identity. In no small way, this attitude toward the disorder causes the cycle of shame and guilt that keeps people from seeking help and getting better. Of Two Minds does a very good job of highlighting that problem, making it a valuable documentary to watch.
Of Two Minds comes to DVD from Docurama in a strong package that is typical for the label. The 1.78:1 image looks good for a documentary, with good clarity and detail, though there's nothing really special about it. Sound is similar, with a surround mix that has little going on in the rear channels, but dialog that is nice and clear.
The special features on the disc are good, as well. It starts with a ten minute short film, "The Mad Parade," that details efforts in Canada to support the "Mad Pride" parade. It's an interesting short piece that does similar things to the main feature. The disc continues with two sets of interviews, each running about half an hour. The first focuses on psychiatric professionals and advocates discussing different aspects of the treatment of bipolar disorder. The second focuses on people who suffer the disorder. Many of these people appear briefly in the feature and this gives them their own individual platforms to speak that they didn't have there. A trailer closes out the disc.
Of Two Minds is an interesting, personal film that puts a good human face on the issue of bipolar disorder. It may not have the broadest appeal, but for anybody interested in the subject and especially for those who have been touched by this disorder or any sort of mental illness, this is a very effective piece of filmmaking.
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