Suicide is never an easy topic to broach, though it is seemingly one of the more often explored themes throughout cinema. While countless true stories of manic depression and suicidal tendencies exist and have been touted on screen, what is often lost is the real-world effects such ideations have on those around those suffering, and how relationships (or lack thereof) play an absolutely integral role in shaping those effects. Gabriela Ledesma has crafted a story of a young woman struggling day-to-day after a botched suicide attempt, claiming its inspiration also lies in true events. While its editorial sense feels a little chop shopped and overburdened by cliched side characters, Blue is sublimely defined by its raw, undiluted power and emotional honesty.
Helen Daniels (Callie Schuttera) is a mid-twenties office worker, struggling with depression and anxiety while caring for her ailing grandmother (Aubrey Manning). When her grandmother passes away and she is fired from her job, Helen attempts suicide. While she halfheartedly manages her mental state, her road to recovery is made even more difficult by mounting bills and lack of medical insurance. Soon she finds a new cast of characters to populate her life, including Tori Hausermann (Laura Harrison) an altruistic ER nurse, Diane Carol (Judith Scott) a cynically weathered psychiatric doctor, and Robert Perkins (Shaw Jones) an executive who may be the one person she needs the most, though it may be at a high cost.
“When her grandmother passes away and she is fired from her job, Helen attempts suicide…”
From the starting gun, the opening credits speed hastily by with little thought put into their design or delivery, being immediately succeeded by overly-melodramatic narration and flashback footage. This breakneck pace does subsist throughout several sequences, giving the impression that Ledesma found these sections boring and not worth too much investment and that time (in general) moves so quickly that often it was hard to understand how much time was actually passing. This is also compounded by the scattered inclusion of several minor characters, who were fun while they were there, but served little to the overall experience beyond adding some stereotypical personality quirks (such as an overly gay best friend, and a rival-turned-bestie co-worker).
However, those detractive elements account for a minimal amount of screentime, as the rest of the film is down-damn-right impressive. Though Schuttera carries the bulk of the film through her powerful on-screen presence and utterly realistic attitude, the whole of the supporting cast put in admirable jobs, where no actor (major to minor) felt as if they were phoning in their performance. This is buttressed by Sam Wilkerson’s silkily fluid cinematography capturing the essence of each scene with relative ease; and (of course), all of this is indicative of Ledesma’s direction, and Ledesma and Schuttera’s screenwriting, by which the pair make a formidable production team. The film captures the drudgery and struggle of mental illness, exploring numerous different coping mechanisms including meditation, (prescribed and self) medication, group discussion, and primal therapy.
“…highly dramatic moments and fully-realized character arcs, all the while firmly grounded in a relatable reality.”
Though this movie could benefit from a steady, more deliberate pace, it also is very possible that the filmmakers chose such a tempo because of the similar uncertainty and vagueness that struggling with severe mental illness and destructive despair can bring. Considering that, and while the ending may seem a little too Hallmark to be believable (at least in the context of the story presented), the film manages to humanize the recovery process, while making no false statements as to what people should do and how they do it. Blue is a true filmic gem, rich with highly dramatic moments and fully-realized character arcs, all the while firmly grounded in a relatable reality.
Blue (2018) Directed by Gabriela Ledesma. Written by Gabriela Ledesma, Callie Schuttera. Starring Callie Schuttera, Aubrey Manning, Laura Harrison, Judith Scott, Shaw Jones. Blue screened as part of the 2018 Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema.
8 out of 10