Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chronic Depression - Two Wonderful Movies

I know someone who once struggled with chronic depression. It was caused by chemical imbalances in her brain, not by problems in her life. She was very self-aware and referred to her condition as "sadness-for-no-reason." Ultimately, she learned how to manage it and is now quite a cheerful person. And one of my personal heroes.

Millions of people suffer from this debilitating condition, and dealing with it requires enormous strength and support from people who care. Not everyone deals with it the same way. Not everyone prevails.

Recently I saw two extraordinary movies, both quite different, which were about people who were afflicted with chronic depression. One of them was "The Beaver" (2011), starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster (directed by Jodie Foster). Walter Black, the CEO of a toy company, suffers from chronic depression. His teen son is disturbed by his father's behavior and worries that he will end up being like his dad. His wife decides she can't live with it anymore. On the brink of committing suicide, Walter creates an optimistic alter ego in the form of a beaver hand puppet, who speaks for him and gives him pep talks. This weird solution creates its own problems. A very different story!

The other movie is "Off the Map" (2003) one of the best movies I've seen in years. I'll go out on a limb and call it a perfect movie in every way. Each of the characters in the film are so real that the movie seems to be about each of them. The story is about a family that subsists off the grid in the spectacular country outside Taos, New Mexico. Sam Elliot is the father, Charley, who says in one of his rare spoken lines, "I'm a damn crying machine." His pre-teen daughter Bo is creative, energetic and persistently hopeful. Joan Allen is the mother, whose unrelenting patience and love holds the family together. One day they are visited by a young I.R.S. agent whose mission is to settle unpaid taxes. But he is enthralled by the beauty of the place and is absorbed into the family. So it's a story about the real nature of spirituality, coming of age, parenting, love, freidnship, overcoming depression, and civilization vs. nature. It has a slow pace, no sex, no chases, no good vs. evil. But wondering what would happen to these fascinating people kept me on the edge of my seat until the conclusion.

For all of you Netflix addicts, enjoy.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .

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