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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Elizabeth Blue is an indie drama about a young woman (Anna Schafer) living with schizophrenia. Inspired by the filmmaker's own experiences with mental illness, the movie chronicles Elizabeth's life after she's released from a psychiatric hospital and moves in with her fiancé. The story is most likely to appeal to older teens interested in either indie films or the serious subject matter. Expect a few scenes of a couple kissing, caressing, and even showering together, but there's no graphic nudity or simulated sex. The movie's disturbing scenes are related to Elizabeth's illness; the voices in her head manifest themselves as a man who tries to convince her to commit suicide. In another scene, her fiancé feels the need to slap her to stop her from obsessing about an imaginary danger. Families with teens who watch the movie together will want to discuss the representation and reality of mental illness, as well as how the film promotes compassion.
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What's the story?
ELIZABETH BLUE is the story of a schizophrenic 20-something woman named Elizabeth (Anna Schafer) who's discharged from a residential psychiatric hospital and then returns to her Los Angeles apartment with her fiancé, Grant (Ryan Vincent). Under the care of a psychiatrist, Dr. Bowman (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Elizabeth receives a treatment plan that involves medications and instructions to ignore any hallucinations that might appear. Elizabeth, who also suffers from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, proceeds to spend most of her time in the apartment, scribbling notes and ideas about her upcoming wedding, while Grant worries that she's not taking her medication and insists he'll always be there for her. As Elizabeth continues to see Dr. Bowman, it's clear the voices in her head aren't all benign; some want her to hurt herself to escape her illness.
Is it any good?
This drama's pace might be too slow for some viewers, but there's an intimacy and authenticity to Elizabeth's struggle for a typical life when she's dealing with a serious illness. Despite the odds against them, Elizabeth and Grant share a sweet, loving romance. It's unclear what he does for a living, but Vincent plays Grant as a dutifully caring, devoted partner who wants to grow old and have children with Elizabeth -- even though he knows that will mean helping her navigate her mental health for the rest of their lives. And Schafer gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as Elizabeth, who one moment can seem "fine" but the next becomes obsessive and has to fight off the impulse to do what the voices are telling her.
Best known for playing dangerous men, Akinnuoye-Agbaje plays against type as a patient psychiatrist who tries his hardest to help Elizabeth see what's real and what's her illness. Other notable supporting characters include Kathleen Quinlan in brief scenes as Elizabeth's mother and Christopher Ashman as Elizabeth's cruel hallucination. That said, while Elizabeth Blue means well, there's not much of a plot, and as a character study, it's fairly obvious where the story is heading. A few solid performances make the drama watchable, but whatever director Vincent Sabella is trying to convey gets obscured by the film's gimmicky (and easy-to-guess) denouement.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Elizabeth Blue depicts mental illness. How do movies typically portray characters with mental illnesses and disabilities? Name some that have been notable. How is this one similar/different?
How do you feel about the end? What do you think happens next?
- In theaters: September 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2018
- Cast: Anna Schafer, Ryan Vincent, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
- Director: Vincent Sabella
- Studio: Global Digital Releasing
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Compassion
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic content and a scene of sensuality
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