Oct 29

“Olive Kitteridge”: Depression a Main Theme

Many of us have read and loved Elizabeth Strout‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2008 novel. And now the mini-series is coming to HBO Sunday and Monday. Olive Kitteridge the film adaptation has so far garnered nothing but rave reviews, including for—and perhaps especially for—the lead performances.

HBO’s official description:

A look at a seemingly placid New England town that is actually wrought with illicit affairs, crime and tragedy, all told through the lens of Olive, whose wicked wit and harsh demeanor mask a warm but troubled heart and staunch moral center. The story spans 25 years and focuses on Olive’s relationships with her husband, Henry, the good-hearted and kindly town pharmacist; their son, Christopher, who resents his mother’s approach to parenting; and other members of their community.

Olive and her husband are played by Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins; son Christopher by John Gallagher, Jr.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “While not all the book’s 13 interconnected stories and throng of characters are covered, the tone is captured and the essential elements given ample breathing space in this emotionally satisfying, funny-sad four-part HBO miniseries. Produced by Tom Hanks’ Playtone banner, it’s directed with an impeccable balance of sensitivity and humor by Lisa Cholodenko and expertly adapted by Jane Anderson.”

According to Robbie Collin, Telegraph, Cholodenko has dubbed the material’s tone “traumady.”

DEPRESSION IN THE FAMILY of Olive Kitteridge

Peter Debruge, Variety:

Thematically speaking, shotguns and fathers’ suicides loom heavy over much of the miniseries, which tends to view its ‘Our Town’-like cross-section of Crosby residents in generational terms, where children are constantly dealing with their parents’ baggage, and where middle-school teachers [like Olive] appear to have relatively little impact on the lives of their students…Depression may or may not run in Olive’s family. She certainly seems to have passed it on to her son, Christopher…who grows up resenting his mom, and in the teleplay’s opening scene, we see Olive, widowed and unhappy at the end of her life, going for a picnic in the woods where, instead of bringing food, she unpacks a revolver.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “Depression is a significant theme here. It drifts like gray clouds across the sleepy town and the gorgeous New England scenery, surfacing from one generation to the next in family histories. One of the most affecting threads concerns couch-bound Valium popper Rachel Coulson (Rosemarie DeWitt), and later, her grown son Kevin (Cory Michael Smith), back from doing psychiatry at Columbia and ready to give up on life until Olive interrupts his despair.”

OLIVE

Peter Debruge, Variety: “For much of the mini, Olive actually appears to be a secondary character in her own life, sort of the surly opposite of a busybody — a woman who’s always present, but seldom wants to engage with other people’s troubles.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “A blunt, abrasive woman with a cutting sense of humor, she has little time for words of comfort or flattery, and while she’s not without compassion, she shows it sparingly, on her own strictly unsentimental terms.”

OLIVE AND HENRY

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter:

Their union is a classic mismatch, and one shudders often as Henry’s upbeat observations and affectionate gestures are struck down by Olive’s unvarnished worldview, distilled into a sardonic quip. In the first and arguably strongest episode, ‘Pharmacy,’ they both entertain the notion of more suited soul mates — Olive with her fellow teacher Jim O’Casey (Peter Mullan), a complicated man with an affinity for the haunted poetry of John Berryman; Henry with the sweet-natured mouse Denise (Zoe Kazan), who works for him. Watching Jenkins’ face transform into giggling boyish delight around her is a heartbreaking joy.

CHRISTOPHER

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “As Chris goes through one unhappy marriage and a lot of therapy before finding a more workable though still imperfect domestic situation, his resentment bubbles up over the difficulties of growing up with a mother like Olive.”

TRAILER for Olive Kitteridge

One of the available previews has a great opener that addresses the depression within the family:

Aug 29

“Short Term 12”: Realistic Portrayal of Facility for Troubled Teens

A new award-winning indie film called Short Term 12 (that expands on writer/director Destin Cretton‘s 2008 short film of the same name) is reaping much critical praise.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, sets up Short Term 12, that features Brie Larson as Grace, a child care supervisor at a residential facility.

Her small staff includes her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), whom she lives with, and shy newcomer Nate (Rami Malek). They’re not social workers or psychologists, but they help the teens work out their emotions..

Early on we learn Grace is pregnant, but she hasn’t told Mason yet. The knowledge of that, and the question of how to handle it, echoes through Grace’s experiences with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever), a recent arrival at the group home. Among the other kids is the troubled Marcus (Keith Stanfield), who frets about his approaching 18th birthday because it means he’ll soon be on his own after three years at Short Term 12. There’s also the younger prankster Luis (Kevin Hernandez) and bipolar Sammy (Alex Calloway).

…Cretton treats all of them with respect, and we slowly see why the counselors choose to be there.

Below see the trailer:

THE REALISM

Notably, Cretton bases this movie on his own employment experience in a similar facility.

GRACE AND MASON

Their adolescent charges don’t know that Grace and Mason are romantically involved.

Kenneth TuranLos Angeles Times: “Given equal weight with what happens between the staff and these kids is what happens between Grace and Mason, a nuanced relationship that gets increasingly complex as different, unexpected aspects of their backgrounds get revealed.”

THE ROLE OF THERAPY/THERAPISTS IN SHORT TERM 12

Peter DebrugeVariety: “Although the facility’s care involves dedicated sessions with trained therapists (left almost entirely offscreen), the doctors don’t spend nearly as much time with the kids as the other staffers do, and tensions frequently arise when suggested treatments don’t align with what the on-the-ground counselors observe on a daily basis.”

THE SETTING

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: “…might better be called ‘Indeterminate Term 12.’ It’s a foster-care facility where troubled teens are kept in a safe environment until the county figures out what to do with them—a process that can take weeks, months or as much as a year. They get sporadic psychotherapy, the quality of which is undetermined; we’re never privy to any sessions. What we do see is a 20-something supervisor, Grace, trying to help her volatile kids as best she can, even though she isn’t a trained therapist, isn’t much older than some of her charges and is far from untroubled in her own life.”

R. Kurt OsenlundSlant: “As the film boldly underlines, office-dwelling supervisors like Jack (Frantz Turner) may be bureaucratic and out of touch, but those in the proverbial trenches…know precisely where the kids in their care are coming from, specifically because they both have similar roots and (sometimes literally) similar scars.”

JAYDEN AND GRACE

Kenneth Turan,  Los Angeles Times: “Smart, bored, entitled though she is, Jayden touches something in Grace. Though no one knows better than Grace the support staff mantra that ‘you’re not their family, you’re not their therapist, you’re there to create a safe environment,’ she cannot help but want to get involved.”

A CONCLUDING REVIEW OF SHORT TERM 12

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “It’s both a compelling group melodrama built around an appealing young cast and an immersive introduction into a social reality many of us haven’t thought about, that being the question of what happens to young people who have been abandoned, abused or damaged to such a degree that they no longer have anything close to a stable family or home life.”