A Movie about Mental Illness and Loss

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One Art

BY ELIZABETH BISHOP

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The Writing 101 prompt that I responded to this past week about loss got me thinking about a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, called One Art. I first heard this poem in the movie In Her Shoes and didn’t really comprehend its depth until recently. The poem was perfect for the movie, which on the surface seems like just another chick flick, but for me reached right into my soul and created a huge emotional response.

The story is about two sisters who are opposites in every way; one being very responsible, and the other one struggling to get her life together. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that their mom, who is now deceased, had bipolar. Throughout the movie, one gets a glimpse of the ways in which each of her family members dealt with her illness, often floundering and making mistakes along the way. Her mother, husband, and daughters each had their own way of coping with the situation, and I was moved to tears as I remembered how heart wrenching it was to figure out how to compassionately approach my mom when she was ill.  Everyone wants to do the right thing, but it isn’t always clear what that might be.

There were parts of the movie that didn’t get it exactly right. Even so, as someone who has dealt with mental health issues from a daughter’s perspective, personally, and as a parent, the movie had some authentic, raw moments that made it worthwhile.

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