Expecting a dark and twisted movie, I was rather shocked because whilst it was exactly that, it also was very poignant at showing the reality of mental health in a completely different way to how I’ve usually seen it portrayed in films.
Joaquin Phoenix’s depiction of ‘Joker’ was uncomfortable to watch so much so it was beautifully breath-taking.
The cinematography (by Lawrence Sher) makes these scenes even more impactful showing you it’s not just Gotham City that needs a reality check – we all do.
The sinister themes such as death and gun violence are often featured in these films yet the importance of mental health is often overlooked.
Following the life of Arthur Fleck, we see him working as a clown and stand-up comedian – all of which provides him with the foundations to become what we all know him as today.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Joker’ undergoes therapy as he tries to deal with the abuse, humiliation, isolation, abandonment and despair he faces on a daily basis – all whilst taking care of his ailing mother.
We see Fleck in these sessions trying to explain his feelings but soon this is cut short by lack of funding where we are told the government doesn’t care about “people like you [Fleck]”. His therapy then comes to an end, stopping his medication which results in his state of mind slowly spiralling out of control.
In big child-like handwriting, we then see the words “the worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t” in his notebook where he writes his jokes. Imbedded in all of his jokes is nothing but dark humour where he tries to express his true feelings but nobody understands.
This brings us back to when we are told the story of his mother telling him to smile and make others happy, something he finds hard to do but does so.
For those of you who suffer through any form of mental illness be it anxiety, depression, bipolar, or something else, you know how it feels to often be misunderstood and to feel like the outsider who can never conform to what is deemed ‘socially acceptable’ because as soon as you do, you, just like ‘Joker’, will be putting a fake mask on, concealing your emotions and pretending to be happy for the sake of others around you.
From budget cuts, lack of understanding, bullying and long waiting lists, it’s worth noting this isn’t simply dialogue from a fictional movie.
According to Samaritans, in the UK during 2018, deaths by suicide rose by 11.8% and an average referral waiting time of 6 months.
Not only that, according to the Mental Health Foundation, Bipolar is the fourth most-common mental health problem worldwide after depression, anxiety and schizophrenia – so is it any wonder Fleck became so lost?
Despite some harsh critics, this movie is no doubt going to win Oscars and if Phoenix himself doesn’t win one himself, well…I’ll just assume they didn’t watch the same film I did.