Last night I watched the perfect date movie for manic depressives, the world over. “Silver Linings Playbook,” an Oscar winning film framed in the conventions of a Hollywood rom-com, is a story of the transcendent power of love. Pat (Bradley Cooper) returns from the horrors of mania to a world, which offers him the gifts of beauty and pain. We watch him re-adjust to life beyond the order and routine of a psychiatric hospital; a life minus his wife, his job and his own house, spent in his parents home, the bosom of familial love and contradictory realm of escape and frustration. “They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad…” (Philip Larkin). He is the bloom of their seed, the psychology of blame.
Watching the first half of the film, I was both surprised and somewhat piqued by the emotions it evoked in my irritable psyche. For the verbal “rantings” of the characters, especially those of the protagonist, annoyed me almost to the point of
contemplating turning off the noise and tuning into a more calming vibe; the space cadet of my thoughts eager to land. However, my commitment to accessing products of popular culture which centralise mental health awareness, kept me going. I am glad that it did. For, my reaction to listening to highly expressed emotion and Bradley Cooper’s pacey and urgent delivery of lines offered me insight into the difficulties encountered by the loved ones and supporters of people undergoing episodes of mania. When unwell, have I been as annoying as “Pat?” Probably. For the first time I saw myself through my Mother’s eyes. No wonder she often cries. No wonder she challenges.
The verbal battering I experienced in the first part of the film was, subsequently, replaced by a warm glow. Rom-com credentials raised their frothy heads and manipulated me into empathising with the characters. The introduction of a love interest for Pat, played with depth by Jennifer Lawrence, provided a counter-point and stressed the view that “madness” is not about chemicals and, rather, affects everyone in relative degrees.
Although the film did not say anything new and its format and structure were overwhelmingly traditional, “Silver Linings Playbook,” peeled away the mask of mental ill health and revealed that regardless of the issues we experience, people are more alike than different and possess similar needs and desires. Bipolar is a barrier to love, only if we make it. Silver linings exist for us all. In order to experience them, however, we must believe.
BOOKWORMS BEWARE-My novel, containing themes of mental health, recovery and LOVE is available on AMAZON and from other retailers. Buy THE GENERAL PARALYSIS OF SANITY by LOUISE M. HART and engage with your silver lining!