In association with The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival
Like Crazy is a delicately humorous portrayal of mental illness that shows the lighter side of such a serious topic, yet which still manages to remain sincere in the appropriate places. The film’s leading actors fully embrace their characters, giving them such a realistic depth that one can’t help but empathise with these women and their situations.
Like Crazy opens with sombre music, cryptically showing a mother walking with her baby beside the sea, before abruptly cutting to the bright, colourful countryside of rural Tuscany where we first discover Villa Biondi; a psychiatric clinic where our protagonist Beatrice (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) resides. She makes a grandiose entrance, showing off her aristocratic status as she waltzes around the grounds with her umbrella like she is in charge and not, in fact, a patient. When she is told she must learn how to socialise with the other guests, we almost instantly see a frail looking Donatella (Micaela Ramazzotti) arrive at the facility – and just like that the pair are inseparable, with Beatrice latching on to Donatella. Beatrice rather convincingly pretends to be the doctor, using her knowledge of psychiatric medication and her impressive abilities in bullshit to break through to a reserved Donatella, where we learn that she has a son. This becomes the theme of the pair’s adventure as they take the opportunity to make a run for it once they are finally allowed out for the day to help at a local plant nursery, running through the fields to catch a bus. They end up at a mall and from there the adventure begins.
Donatella is hesitant but Beatrice convinces her by professing that “spontaneity is always imprisoned by regulations”, and so the pair begin their Thelma and Louise style journey to find Donatella’s son. Little by little, we start to find out more about Donatella’s dingy past, and so throughout their escapades the tone of the film gradually changes from comedy to drama, as we witness both women coming to accept and embrace their illnesses. It becomes heart-breaking and somewhat difficult to watch when Donatella finally opens up to Beatrice about her past. This tear-jerking moment is brutal, as in it we recognise just how determined she is to be functional, to be a mother, yet is suddenly constrained by being institutionalised in a system that does not want to help her.
Written and directed by Paolo Virzì, renowned for Human Capital, this film is comical at the beginning yet powerful at the end. The manic structure of the film, enhanced by the never-ending babbles of Beatrice, mimics a feeling of chaos and lack of control, and the sense of never being quite able to slow down. We are thrown into a serious depiction of depression in which we learn that, despite the jokes and whimsical moments of the film, mental illness is not a laughing matter. Like Crazy acts as an excellent portrayal of mental illness on-screen, and both its actors deliver impacting performances which linger on within the viewer long after watching.
More information on the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is available here.