A look at the recent crop of movies about mental illness

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

LOS ANGELES (AP) — This may be the summer of the mental-illness movie.

At least half a dozen recent releases reflect characters, both real and fictional, whose experience with mood disorders is central to the story. These films have value beyond the box office: Sympathetic portrayals of people dealing with mental illnesses help broaden public understanding of these little-discussed conditions and show the challenges sufferers face.

Here's a look at recent and forthcoming films dealing with mental illnesses:

— "Welcome to Me" stars Kristen Wiig as a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery. She immediately stops taking her medication and pours millions of dollars into producing her own talk show, where she discusses her high-protein diet, re-enacts formative moments from her life and performs amateur veterinary procedures. Tim Robbins co-stars as her psychiatrist. The film is available to rent online.

— "Infinitely Polar Bear" writer-director Maya Forbes based this story on her own childhood experiences. Mark Ruffalo plays a bipolar dad hospitalized after a mental breakdown. Upon his release, he's left to care for his two young daughters when his wife (Zoe Saldana) goes away to graduate school. The film is in theaters now.

— "Love & Mercy" focuses on two significant periods in the life of The Beach Boys songwriter Brian Wilson. Paul Dano plays the musician in the late 1960s, when he experienced a creative surge and the onset of mental illness. John Cusack plays Wilson later in his life, overmedicated and controlled by a domineering psychiatrist (Paul Giamatti) until he finds love with future wife Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). The film is in theaters now.

— "The End of the Tour" follows author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), who is finishing up his promotional tour for "Infinite Jest" when he agrees to an interview with Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). Lipsky alternately tries to befriend and prod Wallace, who becomes increasingly frustrated and self-conscious. The film is based on Lipsky's book, which was published after Wallace's 2008 death. The film is in theaters now.

— "I Smile Back" stars Sarah Silverman as a deeply troubled suburban mother struggling with the destructive effects of an unnamed mental condition. She complains that lithium makes her gain weight, so she self-medicates with cocaine, alcohol and promiscuous sex, endangering the life she loves with her adoring husband and their two kids. The film is scheduled to be released in October.

— "What Happened, Miss Simone?" documents the life of Nina Simone, from her public persona as a renowned singer, pianist and civil rights activist to her private struggles with abusive behavior and bipolar disorder. This documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is available on Netflix.

— "Amy" looks at the talent and career of Amy Winehouse, and how fame and her battle with bulimia, depression and addiction contributed to her death at age 27. The film is in theaters now.