A few days ago I watched the movie, Barefoot. I used to shy away from movies that had anything to do with psychiatric patients and mental illness because I was so afraid of becoming ill like my mom, who had paranoid schizophrenia. Movies like that also aroused in me many emotions about the things that I was exposed to during my childhood because of her illness. Witnessing my mom experiencing her delusions could be very frightening and anxiety inducing. I carried a lot of that anxiety into my adult life. Fortunately at this point I have worked through most of my fears through years of therapy and utilizing the many resources available via the internet, support groups, and mental health organizations. So now I am feeling a bit frisky and would like to provide my take on some movies that tackle mental health issues.
Movie Review: I’ll start with the movie, Barefoot. It was actually less about mental illness than it was a “romantic comedy” which relied on every stereotype and cliché out there to pander to its audience. The storyline revolves around a young woman, Daisy, who was raised in isolation by an abusive mom. She is rescued by a rich “bad boy”, Jay, whose gambling, alcohol consumption, irresponsible behavior, and occasional criminal activities landed him in the same psychiatric institution as her. When he escapes and takes her with him, the fun begins.
The Action: Jay sets out on a mission to finagle money out of his father to pay back his bookies who are threatening to kill him. His father has written him off, so Jay must first prove to him that he has changed, which of course is best accomplished by telling him he now has a girlfriend. Have you ever seen that adorable theme before in a movie? Jay easily convinces Daisy to come home with him and pose as his girlfriend for his brother’s wedding, despite her hesitation in telling a lie. Apparently despite being held hostage by her mother growing up, the girl somehow developed a strong moral compass. She tells Jay she was allowed to watch t.v. during her years in captivity, which one can only conclude is how she became so moral.
Once Daisy is out in the “real world” with Jay, she has a constant angelic smile on her face, and plenty of adorable little outfits. She looks at everything around her with childlike awe, except when she is frightened and has a baby-sized freak-out/panic attack. Despite her occasional social faux pas and inability to tell a little white lie when necessary, she ultimately captures everyone’s hearts and attention by her sheer beauty and naiveté’.
Spoiler Alert: The surprise ending reveals that Daisy isn’t the one who is mentally ill, and her occasional panic attacks are only because her mom was a controlling paranoid schizophrenic who never let her win at scrabble or go out of the house. After her mom died, Daisy was discovered in the house and put into a mental hospital, where she was mistakenly kept because when asked why she was there she told them it was because of “the voices”. The doctor never bothered to ask her who was hearing the voices, and thank goodness Jay saved the day and avoided time in jail for kidnapping a mental patient by figuring out it was the mom who was actually hearing voices.
The discovery of the misunderstanding leads to Daisy’s immediate release from the hospital. She is heartbroken when Jay tries to ditch her, leaving her to fend for herself. Fortunately Jay soon realizes how much he cares for her, probably because of the puppy dog looks she gives him, and takes her under his wing so that she never has to live on her own again.
I tried to relate to Daisy’s character based on our common experience of having a mom who had paranoid schizophrenia, but ultimately we have nothing in common. No wait, I take that back, my mom was obsessed with scrabble too and was smart enough to win every time!
If you are looking for any lessons about mental illness, you won’t find them in this movie. If you are looking for a fairy tale complete with all the standard fare, then Barefoot is the movie for you.
I am anxiously awaiting the sequel when Jay becomes a world-renowned physicist and Daisy runs off with his bookie, taking all their baby Einsteins with her.