Girl, Interrupted

★★

It’s pretty ironic really that I watched this in two parts. What with me being a girl and all. Girl…interrupted. Bad jokes aside, this was one of the most table-turning films I have ever had the pleasure of being drawn into. I did have my doubts. 90s Winona and Angelina, an all-girl mental institution…it just felt like the kind of all round piece of cinema that I would usually swerve into a metaphorical bush just to get away from. But for some reason, the evening of the 5th December caught me off guard. Must have been a full moon or something. And so off I skipped into the alien land, following the ever-present words of the Interstellar teaser trailer: make the unknown known.

Based on the book by the protagonist Susanna Kaysen, Ryder’s character (Susanna) is summoned for counselling after a near-fatal suicide attempt. She ends up in a psychiatric hospital where she meets a group of fellow patients: Polly, Cynthia, Georgina, Daisy, and outspoken sociopath, Lisa Rowe (Jolie). There, she is forced into medication and undergoes a dramatic change in character. And while her new friends understand her more than any on the outside ever had, it is impossible to forget the inescapable reality of being trapped. Susanna’s 18-month stay is many things. An exploration of emotions, sure. A chance for her to overcome the battle in her own mind – I guess so. But, for me and I suppose many, it revealed the truth behind the treatment of psychological illness in the 60s, and the ups and downs (but mainly downs) of what comes attached to being a few degrees to the left of “completely sane”.

The opening didn’t really grab me. Susanna seemed unlikable at the start but, looking back, I feel genuinely guilty for not being empathetic to such a troubled character. She enters the institution as a quiet and keep-yourself-to-yourself kind of girl. But as the days away from home turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, she morphs into this shadow of her old self, or rather her old self is the shadow. Her confidence grows as she fights back against authority, finding comfort in Lisa’s ‘gang’. The brief appearance of Jared Leto in boyfriend mode was rather pleasing to my inner Dallas Buyers and Fight Club (please don’t say that word) fangirls (shit), even if his presence could be missed in the blink of a happy-tear filled eye. But his brevity is not without good reason.It’s all about those girls. And they all do an excellent job.

I feel I may be heckled if I compare Girl, Interrupted to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but for me, they are pretty equal. Except that one quote in Girl that made me lose my shit (and by shit I mean composure). “You hurt yourself on the outside to try and kill the thing on the inside.” Susanna Kaysen, I thank you.

Letterboxd

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