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Editorials

Films That Have Supported My Mental Health

October 5, 2020
Almost Famous

1 in 6 people will report to experiencing a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression. I am one of those people, and it’s only something I have really come to terms with this year, despite being fully aware of my mental health issues long before.

The first time I felt truly aware, was during my first year of university. I slept too little or too long, I didn’t leave my room for fear of bumping into any other person, I flipped my mattress several times a night to check for creatures and I didn’t eat until my body was desperate. I kept everything hidden, as best as I could (minus a few sobbing phone calls to friends and family).

Since that year, and since my official diagnosis, I have worked hard to not let myself get into that position again. Focusing on writing when I feel like I could tackle it. Staying on top of cleaning as best as I can, pushing myself to do the washing when the pile is too high. There are days though where all I can do, is watch something comforting and try again tomorrow.

These are the films that have helped me through my toughest times.

Almost Famous

Zoey Deschanel in Almost Famous
Zoey Deschanel in Almost Famous (Credit: Dreamworks)

I remember watching this once when I was younger and never managing to remember the name of the film. It spent years in the back of my mind until one day I saw an advert where at the end, Zooey Deschanel is looking into the main character’s eyes and saying ‘Anywhere you want to go. Anywhere in the world‘. That’s where I rediscovered what I class as my favourite individual film.

Based on real-life experiences by director Cameron Crowe, the story follows a teenager called William and his futile attempt to get an interview with fictional band Stillwater for Rolling Stone magazine. For me, this is a story of how a family can be the one you’re given and the one you make along the way. It’s a love letter to music and how it can connect you to the most unexpected people. How sometimes, even when it doesn’t seem like it, life will find a way to make it up to you.

There is a comfort I have when watching this film. It reminded me of home, how my friend and I used to sing along to the infamous Tiny Dancer scene (is there a better scene in that film?) when I was far away. As Kate Hudson utters the line ‘It’s all happening‘ with such ease, it reminded me that life was continuing on without me and it was time to start living it, even if that meant putting on something other than pyjamas.

Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde - Reese Witherspoon
Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon (Credit: MGM)

Let me preface this by saying, I am not ashamed of my love for Legally Blonde and feminist icon (you can’t tell me otherwise) Elle Woods. What you think starts off as a usual romantic comedy, complete with upbeat pop music as the opening credits roll, ends with the best kind of vengeance – Elle outgrowing the person she thought she would spend her life with and becoming successful in her own right.

A supposed trope of the ‘dumb blonde’, Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) turns that stereotype upside down. Okay, so she follows her ex-boyfriend Warner to Harvard Law school in the hopes of winning him back – but she stays focused on her goals throughout. She quickly moves past wanting to be with Warner, and aims to show up those who thinks of her as less than. She works hard and never deviates from the goals she sets herself.

This film inspires me to push myself beyond the boundaries I set myself. Beyond the comfort zones I can become easily accustomed to. To not change myself to fit into others expectations. Every time I watch this film, I feel like it’s time to be productive, to start trying again.

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring cast (credit: New Line Cinema)

Sometimes, you need to be removed far from reality as possible. Sometimes, you need to find comfort in a story that couldn’t happen (really) in the life you’re living. Sometimes, you need to be immersed in a story that you’ve loved since childhood. For some, that’s Star Wars or Harry Potter. For me, it’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Maybe it’s the familiarity – how I know the lines, the music, the characters before Cate Blanchett has a chance to speak in the opening prologue. Maybe it’s the idyllic Shire – how bright it is, how peaceful it seems, how even I seem to want to go home to it. Maybe it’s the moment when Aragorn arrives at Helm’s Deep and opens the door with such a flourish that everyone does a tiny swoon. Something brings me back to Middle-Earth each time I feel like I need a true escape.

It brings a sense of comfort that no other film can bring me. I still cry at the scenes I’ve always cried at, get angry at the scenes I’ve always yelled at (you’re right next to Mount Doom Frodo, you know Samwise won’t make it home, you monster), and continue to watch the battle scenes with such hope for the heroes, even when I know the outcome. I become so engrossed in the film, that for the next three (or nine, depending on if I’m watching them all) hours, nothing else matters – all that matters is this ragtag Fellowship destroying the One Ring and stopping evil from taking over their homes.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Stop ourselves from being overwhelmed by the negativity and focus on the things that make us appreciative. For Frodo, it’s Gandalf’s fireworks and the lights in the Party Tree. For Samwise, it’s Rosie Cotton dancing. For me, it’s this trilogy of films that have been there for me in the worst of times.

Also Read: Cinema Therapy: How Movies Can Heal

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Laura Huckle
Freelance writer living in Essex. I'm an English and Creative Writing graduate and a lover of all things film. Current retirement plan is to live out my days as the Hobbit I was always meant to be.

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