Mental Health at the Movies: THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN

So for my first Mental Health at the Movies post, I tried to find one on grief, since a number of my friends are tonight attending a memorial service for a friend of theirs who died suddenly this month.

This Flemish language Belgian movie from 2012 is now on Netflix, and it really is a most wonderful film about the relationship between a musician obsessed with American bluegrass music and a free-spirited tattoo artist who turns out to have a very pretty voice.

The movie begins as Didier and Elise are doing their best to cope with a devastating cancer diagnosis for their 7 year old daughter, Maybelle.  Flashbacks detail the start of their country romance and the early success of their bluegrass band. The narrative moves back and forth in time, but turns ultimately on the progression of Maybelle’s cancer and her death.

The film is notable both for showing how such a horrific loss can affect relationships and for demonstrating a key task of grief, which is the expression of emotion about the loss. For my patients, especially those that already suffer from depression, I convey how a bereavement is a normal time to feel sad (as well as other emotions).  Well-meaning but incorrect advice to stifle these feelings, which grievers sometimes receive from friends or family, can interfere with this process.  What is wonderful and awful at the same time in the film is the use of music for the expression of the characters’ pain.

Elise singing Wayfaring Stranger

Below, my original review of the film:

A Belgian bluegrass love story might not sound appealing to many, but this award winning Flemish language tearjerker is such a fresh, nearly perfect movie through it’s first two thirds that the somewhat melodramatic third act is a letdown only from its own high standards. Elise and Didier are united in their passion for each other and for classic American bluegrass music. When their young daughter is diagnosed with cancer, their idyllic rural life is thrown into upheaval. A feast of filmcraft, from the acting to the cinematography, to the mesmerizing musical performances. Not to be missed.

And here’s another review from the website:

If you have experienced bereavement and want help, contact Bereaved Families of Ontario.


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