Helen: Sundance Drama
Ashley Judd performs brilliantly in the extremely dramatic and touching film, HELEN. Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, Helen examines a woman who seemingly has the “perfect life” (a successful teacher, married, has a beautiful daughter) but is actually struggling with serious mental illness that is deteriorating her mentally as well as physically. We watch Helen being eaten away from inside out by her bipolar disorder and depression. We also witness the powerful and inspiring bond that arises between her and another woman through their struggles. The breakdown Helen undergoes is extraordinarily realistic as well as heart wrenching.
Talk about, depressing, dark and emotion driven, this film is not for the faint of heart. The cinematography compliments the story to a T. The muted and monochrome like colors juxtaposed with Helen’s descent into mental illness are genius.
What I really liked about this film was that it was not your cliche film what with predictability and a happy ending. I loved the elusiveness that existed within the story and how there was not always easy answers or any answers at all, and things didn’t always work themselves out. I also loved the message of never giving up no matter how hard it is and even when you want to give up more than anything. I am a big believer in the saying, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” and this message definitely emanates from the film.
HELEN was mentally tough to watch at times, but this added to its depth and originality. This was a truthful encounter with a subject that is extremely serious and the seriousness and reality is captured beautifully. Mental illness is more common than many people realize and if anyone has ever encountered anyone with mental illness they know how destructive it can be to that person as well as everyone around that person.
The audience spirals down this dark tunnel with Judd and we, just like the character HELEN, are not sure where it will ever end. This story gets to the core of human nature and examines deep, dark and frightening aspects of life which we we cannot ignore. It delves into the sheer terror of losing all comforts and any feelings of safety that families and friends usually bring. The film depicts the destruction and resurrection of bonds between people. It is also a story about how deep human connections can go and how these connections are amplified that much more through struggle and suffering. Helen illuminates the immense courage and strength that emerges from undergoing such suffering. It is a story of hope, love, trust and self realization as well as destruction. Be prepared to feel mentally and physically exhausted by the time the film is over. But I have to add, it is worth the exhaustion and you will definitely take away a meaningful experience.