Starring: Paz Bascuñan, Antonia Zegers, Fernanda Urrejola
Director: Nicolás López
Running Time: 114 mins
I’m Not Crazy (No estoy loca) is a Chilean film about a woman who, after trying to commit suicide following her discovery of her husband’s infidelity, is sent to a mental institution, where she insists she doesn’t belong.
While we’ve seen insights into the lives and thoughts of those staying in mental health institutions on a number of occasions (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, We Can Do That etc), there are few that do get to the crux of the realities of those lives like I’m Not Crazy. Now, while the film certainly takes more than a while to get to that point, after a frustrating, shrill and rather unfunny build-up, it really blooms with a heart-warming, genuine and eye-opening final act, ending on a wonderful high.
Now, making a heart-warming, uplifting film about mental patients isn’t all that hard to do, but the problem with the more generic films of that ilk is that they take a rather patronising, almost pitiful approach to the portrayal of those characters. The better films, however, see them as real people on a level with everyone else.
Compare the differences between the uplifting but rather patronising likes of We Can Do That and Champions, with the legendary One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The former sees a man from outside a mental institution try to help the patients’ lives, whereas the latter sees a man from the same sphere put onto their same level, allowing you as the viewer to form a far stronger bond with those characters throughout.
And that’s exactly what I’m Not Crazy gets so right with its fantastic final act. While missing out on telling that story right from the beginning, the film comes so good in the final forty minutes as we see our main character come to terms with the fact that being in a mental institution doesn’t make you any less of a person, or any more devoid of the emotional realities of the outside world. Through both her own self-discovery and interactions with others in the hospital, she learns a valuable and thoroughly heartwarming lesson about just that, which put a smile on my face as the film came to a wonderful climax.
If the whole of I’m Not Crazy was as heartfelt, intelligent and engrossing as that final act, then it would have been a thoroughly moving and impressive watch, with genuine parallels to the likes of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. However, as strong as the film finishes up, I can’t say that it’s anywhere near as impressive or engaging through its first half, and particularly up to that point in the final act where it pauses to take a more serious but still engrossing look at itself.
The movie starts off with the rather predictable and generic fallout from a fairly unhappy marriage, as our main character goes from anger to full-on depression after discovering her husband has been cheating with her best friend. In that opening act, there isn’t all that much you’ve never seen before to prove genuinely interesting, but that’s largely because is deliberately – no matter how misguidedly – geared towards a more comedic style, trying to get you laughing and sympathising in the vein of a generic singles romantic comedy early on.
Then, as things take a slightly more serious and dark turn as we watch this woman fall into total depression and eventually being admitted to a mental institution, the film just becomes a shrill, frustrating and rather unpleasant mess. Now, nobody likes to see someone go through a difficult break-up, and much less if it leads to a major psychological comedown, and that’s why so many films use comedy to lighten the blow of such a subject matter.
However, through the middle of portion of I’m Not Crazy, everything is just so glib and angry that it’s really hard to find any sense of brightness or hope, with the woman’s personal breakdown and then immense frustration at what she sees as her incarceration in a mental hospital proving really quite shrill and far from the engaging drama that the story deserves and eventually brings about.
As a result, I’m Not Crazy is far from the best film you’ll see for the majority of its runtime, with poor comedy, shrill, melodramatic and frustrating emotional turmoil and uninteresting drama for the first two-thirds of proceedings. However, as poor as that all is, it really turns things around in the final act, with a heart-warming, genuine and even eye-opening perspective into a subject matter that’s too often presented in a rather patronising light, finishing off in brilliantly strong fashion that, if you make it that far, will make you feel like the film was fully worth your time, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.2 overall.