“Running from Crazy”: Documentary About the Hemingway Family

I wanted to share my story as a way for others to realize no matter what and where you come from everyone has a story and some relationship to mental instability. I am a Hemingway and have struggled with depression and craziness in my family but I believe that we all share similar stories. I want others to feel supported and the stigma of mental illness to be obliterated. Mariel Hemingway, about Running From Crazy

Actress/model Mariel Hemingway addresses the Hemingway legacy in the Barbara Kopple-directed film Running from Crazy. This is a legacy that includes depression and other mental problems, substance abuse, and at least seven suicides in her immediate family, including that of famous grandfather Ernest as well as sister Margaux, the model and actress.

Mariel, the youngest sibling in her family, is now 51. Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “The title, ‘Running From Crazy,’ refers to what she feels she has been doing all her life – running from the family weaknesses, trying to be healthy and trying to help people suffering from suicidal depression.”

Margaux, who killed herself at age 41, was the next oldest sibling; Mariel shared the same career interests as her. Joan, or “Muffet,” the eldest, rounds out the trio of sisters. She’s a painter who suffers from mental illness.

The trailer sets it up:

Sebastian Doggart, The Guardian, says the moviereveals a string of tragic secrets, including a claim by Mariel that their father, Jack (Ernest’s son, who died after heart surgery in 2000), sexually abused her sisters. Their mother’s unhappiness with her marriage to Jack, heavy drinking at daily ‘wine time’ and long battle with cancer are also cited as reasons for the children’s problems. Margaux’s own alcohol and drug addiction, acquired during her time partying in Studio 54, contributed to her depression, while Muffet’s use of LSD is blamed for her psychoses.”

The sister whose story gets the most air time is Margaux, according to several reviewers. Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: “…(S)he was a ‘really wild child’ who lived very high for a while without regard to the future and then tragically found she had none. Mariel, by contrast, is careful, thoughtful and vividly aware of her place in the world.”

Daphne HowlandVillage Voice, expresses disappointment, though, in the lack of depth portrayed given that Kopple had access to 54 hours of relevant footage that had been shot by Margaux.

On the outcome for Mariel related to the various family dynamics, Ian Thomson, The Telegraph, states: “A survivor, Mariel was determined to escape the ‘curse of the Hemingways’ by trying out every far-out health fad from parapsychology to integral massage to the yogas of increased awareness. These were far from exercises in pure and applied pointlessness.”

Indeed, Mariel is interested in the various ways of becoming and staying healthy. The WillingWay: Step Into the Life You Were Meant to Live is a recent book by Mariel and her partner Bobby Williams that prescribes the WillingWay life plan, which she calls her “saving grace.”

SELECTED REVIEWS

Nicolas Rapold, New York Times: “…(T)his heart-wrenching and deceptively conventional documentary manages the tensions in its subject and in the vérité approach in a fruitful, illuminating and surprisingly moving way.”

Andrew Schenker, Slant: “…Running from Crazy offers little more than surface-level tear-wringing.”

Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times: “You end up with nothing but admiration for Mariel, who speaks at a suicide-awareness walk and in support groups, sharing her pain in the hope of shining light. ‘People can heal themselves by feeling genuine love for each other,’ says Mariel’s daughter, arms around her mother. It may not be the entire answer, but it’s a start.”

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