In Maggie Black, the titular character sacrifices her sanity and safety to ensure the birth of a healthy baby. The successful and intelligent author takes a daring risk when she goes against doctor’s orders and abruptly stops taking her anti-psychotic medications. As she slowly spirals out of control, the lines between reality and delusion are blurred.
We meet Maggie when she’s at her best. She and her husband, Tom, just moved out to the country and they are thinking of starting a family. Their new home provides the perfectly serene atmosphere to work on her eagerly anticipated sophomore book. They’re happily living the dream. That all changes when they unexpectedly become pregnant.
“…goes against doctor’s orders and abruptly stops taking her anti-psychotic medications…”
As it turns out, Maggie has led a tumultuous life. Through conversations with Tom and her therapist, we learn she has suffered from manic episodes and even survived a suicide attempt. Her therapist finally found the right combination of medications to stabilize her mood, but they have serious side effects, especially on the baby.
Maggie and Tom had taken this into consideration when they discussed having children. Her father also suffered from mental illness, so they have explored what options would be best for their future children. Tom was leaning towards adoption, but now that Maggie is pregnant, she insists on keeping their baby. Intellectually, she understands the consequences and is willing to take that risk.
“…you are still left feeling uneasy. Maggie pays dearly for the decision she made.”
The film itself reflects Maggie’s mania once she stops her meds cold turkey and gradually detaches from reality. Scenes are abrupt when she is quick to snap and equally fast to beg forgiveness. She’s paranoid around old friends and becomes oddly familiar with new acquaintances who practically appear out of the blue. She also has undeniable and public episodes that confirm her ill health. Those jarring moments act as a reality check for an audience that is drawn into Maggie’s worldview.
In the end, you get a sense of what actually happened and what was imagined. However, you are still left feeling uneasy. Maggie pays dearly for the decision she made. She denied helped when she severely needed it and when she finally reaches out for salvation, it is a little too late. She starts off as a loving mother who puts her child first but forsakes so much in the process. Much like Maggie, viewers may be left feeling torn about this film.
Maggie Black (2017)Directed by Stanley Brode. Written by Jessalyn Maguire. Starring Jessalyn Maguire, Chris Beetem, John Fugelsang, Carolyn McCormick, Christina Pumariega, Chandler Williams, and Nicole Ansari-Cox.
6.5 out of 10 stars