Schizophrenia Films: “A Beautiful Mind,” “The Soloist”

Featured today are two different schizophrenia films.

Although Nina, the lead character in Black Swan (see yesterday’s post), is not in touch with reality at times and is deemed to be having psychotic episodes, this is not the same as suffering from schizophrenia.

If you’re interested in commercial movies that depict this condition, two schizophrenia films with reasonably accurate portrayals—that also happen to be based on real lives—are A Beautiful Mind (2001) and The Soloist (2009).

A Beautiful Mind:

Roger Ebert: “It tells the story of a man whose mind was of enormous service to humanity while at the same time betrayed him with frightening delusions. Crowe brings the character to life by sidestepping sensationalism and building with small behavioral details. He shows a man who descends into madness and then, unexpectedly, regains the ability to function in the academic world.”

Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: “Russell Crowe sometimes summons up one of the most powerful depictions of mental illness I have ever seen with barely an eyelid flicker separating manifestations of sickness from utterly sane displays of creative concentration.”

Mike Clark, USA Today: “Among the most affecting ever made about co-existing with mental demons.”

The Soloist:

David Denby, The New Yorker: “…dramatizes a successful friendship, but it doesn’t pretend that caring for a troubled person can straighten his disorderly mind, or that music can close wounds that have been open for years.”

Mary Pols, Time: “A deeply empathetic exploration of mental illness and a winning showcase for the talents of its two stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.”

However, as these movies to some extent fictionalize the respective stories of mathematician John Nash and violinist Nathaniel Ayers, another option is to read the books on which the films were based. By Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind; and by Steve Lopez, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, An Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music.

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