Everyone knows someone like the title character of “Stella’s Search for Sanity” (Peter J. Alessandria). Stella (Solange Castro Belcher) is honest, talks very slowly, has good intentions, and occasionally unintentionally causes traffic accidents. The story of her quest for mental health unfolds through a series of direct addresses. As she speaks directly to the camera, sharing insights and personal information, you begin to like her. Direct address is a way to facilitate the viewer’s identification with a certain character and it works in this film. Stella stands with less than stellar posture, isn’t completely with it, but she’s endearing.
Stella begins her testimony by informing the viewer that she’s had three shrinks. Donna Mary Keefe O’Brian) was the first therapist. Trained in Cognitive and Humanistic branches of psychology, Donna prescribes a daily repetition of self-affirmations, which are ultimately counter-effective. Paul (Joe Keyes), the second therapist, doesn’t do much better. A very Freudian-looking fellow, he convinces Stella that she has unresolved issues with sex. She quickly relieves him of his service. Stella’s current therapist Lynn (Maria Bamford) seems more concerned about her own life than her patient’s.
Solange Castro Belcher, who also wrote the screenplay, pulls you into every awkward moment of silence her character experiences. As she darts her eyes around when she’s uncomfortable or takes a while formulating then vocalizing her thoughts, you just sit back and laugh…for her. Everyone knows someone like Stella. She’s frank, she’s not all there, but she’s still great.
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