Parents' Guide to

A Mouthful of Air

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Suicide drama urges understanding of postpartum depression.

Movie R 2021 105 minutes
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An exploration of the desperate sadness felt by an overhwelmed new mother makes for insightful drama, but this isn't a happy film. That said, it does provide some answers. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation/actions are all on the rise these days, which can leave those who've been spared those challenges feeling baffled. Why would someone who "has it all" be suffering like this? Amy Koppelman, adapting and directing from her own same-named novel, offersviewers the ultimate conundrum: Why would a lucky new mom living a privileged life with a loving husband, a great career, and a happy, healthy baby want to take her own life? Koppelman allows viewers to see Julie's story up close, which encourages understanding, but audiences are still kept at a distance. Julie writes children's books and is living her "happily ever after." But when her doting husband, Ethan (Finn Wittrock) looks directly into her eyes, saying he wants to see her, she gets agitated. Julie harbors insecurities that if Ethan really saw her, truly knew who she was on the inside, he would be repulsed.

Koppelman knows this subject matter: She wrote the source novel after struggling with her own depression after the birth of her children in the 1990s, when postpartum depression (PPD) was more often unrecognized. While the novel earned praised for letting readers walk in the shoes of someone experiencing PPD, the film only allows viewers to look at Julie, not through her eyes. We see Julie becoming unable to make simple decisions or to relax about her child's safety, and we see her flat face and tone of voice when she's going through the motions of taking care of her baby instead of being plugged in. We hear Julie share her own explanations of feeling like she's destined to fail. But it's still third person; viewers are left not knowing what it's like to be Julie -- or what she really needs to recover. Audiences may walk away with the abillity to recognize the signs of severe PPD, but without material recommendations of how to help someone else -- or yourself -- who's struggling with suicidal ideation, the film falls short of its potential.

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