Release Date: DVD release June 5
Did you miss seeing this year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress – not to mention the seven other honours it was nominated for? With The Silver Linings Playbook set to release on DVD there’s not a better time to catch up on a beautifully made film and a beautiful reminder of God’s glory in brokenness.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat, a man recently committed to a mental institution in Baltimore for severely beating his wife’s lover. The violent incident revealed that he was actually suffering from bi-polar disorder and the months that follow are dedicated to teaching him to tune out his delusions and develop appropriate responses to everyday scenarios. But when his mother decides to bring him home from the hospital the viewer realizes that Pat is not the only ‘crazy’ on the screen. His father Pat Snr. (Robert De Niro) clearly suffers from some form of obsessive compulsive disorder, and the girl his friends aim to set him up with is recovering from depression and nymphomania. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) eventually bribes and browbeats Pat into entering into a dancing competition as her partner, but her bullying may turn out to be the best step towards reality he has taken so far.
Not since The Blind Side has Hollywood produced such a sincere and sensitive story about a neglected side of ordinary life. In the same way that Sandra Bullock drew worthy attention to homeless children and earned an Oscar for her effort, Jennifer Lawrence provides a much-needed reminder of the struggles of the mentally ill. The Silver Linings Playbook is tense and often incredibly hard to watch because she and Bradley Cooper present characters that are both sympathetic and surreal. Watching Pat suffer a violent melt down because he can’t find his wedding video is painful and personally confronting – you want him to be well; you also just want him to stop. But by putting a face on extreme depression and anxiety writer/director David O. Russell does his audience a welcome favour.
Our discomfort with the topic of mental illness can prevent us from realizing just how significant an issue it is for Australia:
• An estimated one in five Australians will have a mental illness at some time in their lives
• About 2.1 million people have a mental or behavioural problem as a long-term condition
• For the 15-44 age group, depression and anxiety are the leading single causes of burden for both men and women
• Half a million working days are lost every month to depression in Australia
What Russell does is bring home how suburban these sorts of problems can be, and how thin the line between those on the inside and those on the outside of institutions might be. With four million Australians suffering from some form of mental illness, chances are if you don’t struggle yourself then you know someone who does. It follows, then, that a compassionate response is everyone’s responsibility.
However, despite its title, The Silver Linings Playbook demonstrates that positive thinking is not nearly enough to help someone recover his or her balance in life. Pointing out the silver linings to another’s suffering can actually be an excuse to not become involved. Real concern requires action and often painful commitment. It reminds me strongly of the caution the apostle James issues to those who offer platitudes in the face of suffering:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
Unsurprisingly James notes that the sort of faith that reflects on the compassion of God but fails to reflect that compassion to others may be more of a social fiction. And as he concludes, can such superficial faith actually save us?