We all seek representation and visibility in the world and, in turn, the media. People with mental health disorders want to see themselves in movie characters and film plots as much as anyone else! Representation helps us all feel less alone, no? Bahamian American actor Sidney Poitier once said of one of his films,
“I was the only black person on the set. It was unusual for me to be in a circumstance in which every move I made was tantamount to representation of 18 million people.”
Poitier worked at a time when Hollywood (and society) was still very closed off to people of color. He became a star in the late ’60s, but we can’t forget that he was the first black person to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. That was just the beginning for black representation in cinema.
Today, let’s roundup some films that, while not always perfectly portraying bipolar disorder, at least touch on it as a real condition. You might find that some characters exaggerate the symptoms, while others are more true to life. It’s true that we need more stories out there written by people who know what it’s like to live with bipolar. Until then, we have these cinematic efforts!
The Ghost and the Whale (2017)
The Ghost and the Whale tells the story of Joseph Hawthorne (Maurice Benard), a bipolar man who went off to sea with the love of his life, and returned back to the sleepy town of Bodega alone. His wife, Annabel Lee’s (Madeleine Hamer) disappearance and his subsequent exoneration creates a divided mystery among the town, and moreover her bloodthirsty family.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own. – IMDb
Mr. Jones (1993)
After being arrested during a manic episode, a man who suffers from bipolar disorder is treated by a psychiatrist who begins to develop romantic feelings towards him. – IMDb
The Informant! (2009)
The U.S. government decides to go after an agro-business giant with a price-fixing accusation. This is based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president-turned-informant Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon). – IMDb
Touched With Fire (2015)
Two bipolar patients (Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby) meet in a psychiatric hospital. They then begin a romance that brings out all of the beauty and horror of their condition. – IMDb
Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)
A father (Mark Ruffalo) struggling with bipolar disorder tries to win back his wife (Zoe Saldana) by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young, spirited daughters, who don’t make the overwhelming task any easier. – IMDb
What are your favorite films that highlight characters with mental illness?