Title: Of Two Minds
Directors: Doug Blush and Lisa Klein
An enormously empathetic documentary that highlights the diversity and range of experience within the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, “Of Two Minds” roots down into the stigma attached to mental illness, in a very human, relatable manner. Co-directors Doug Blush and Lisa Klein put an authentic human face on the disease, elucidating its physical and mental tolls without coming across as overly didactic or reductive. This is a movie swollen with natural feeling, and one in which any viewer of uplifting nonfiction can find welcome catharsis.
More than an estimated five million Americans are living with bipolar disorder, and with it the manic highs and crushing, enervated lows that it brings. While depression and mental health in general still have their own weight of shame attached to them, the boom in psychiatry and relationship counseling has made those topics more conversationally acceptable. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, because of the unpredictability it often manifests, seems to have a deeper and more stuffed social closet.
“Of Two Minds” includes some interviews with doctors, but mostly chronicles the disease through those who live with it — including a 67-year-old architect and artist, Carlton Davis, whose illness plunged him into crack use, a cross-dressing alter ego and “trying to get AIDS,” as he puts it. Most symptomology isn’t quite that radical, but thoughts of self-harm and suicide are common at the lowest points. One sufferer, an author who’s written books about her struggle, describes it as “like having a constant flu in your mind.” Articulate ex-“Philadelphia Weekly” columnist Liz Spikol is enormously engaging, and it’s heartbreaking to hear about what was likely her genetic predisposition being triggered by a rape in her teenage years.
The film’s most luminous, emotionally connective strand, though, follows 37-year-old Los Angeles-based make-up artist Cheri Keating, who wasn’t diagnosed until she was 31. She enters into a relationship with a new boyfriend, Petey Peterson, only to have him eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. In touchstone fashion, “Of Two Minds” charts the ups and downs of their off-and-on relationship. “I don’t even go for happy anymore,” says Petey at one point. “I just don’t wanna feel like this.” They’re words that sting, but also hold a connection and moving mini-epiphany for anyone tethered to the pain of a continued struggle, whether their own or that of a family member or loved one.
NOTE: “Of Two Minds” plays DocuWeeks in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo 7. For more information on the film, visit www.OfTwoMindsMovie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon