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55 Steps – Director, Bille August

September 17, 2017

 

55steps_01This was the last film of the week for this reviewer and tied up the whole 10 days very well. Like Three Christs, it explores the issues around how we deal with mental illness based on real events. Three Christs was based on experimental treatments tried in 1959 and this one is based on a key legal case in 1985 that ensured that patient rights respected for those with physical illness to those suffering mental illness. The case focussed on one woman who, in frustration with her treatment, arranged for a lawyer. She lucked into a crusading woman lawyer who made major personal sacrifices to defend her and ultimately win her case. Helena Bonham Carter plays the patient who suffers from a variety of physical illnesses and is mentally disabled but not psychiatrically ill. She is mistakenly diagnosed as schizophrenic and treated brutally in the hospital. Her lawyer is played by Hillary Swank and both Carter and Swank turn in exceptional performances. Over the course of the story the two become friends and learn great respect for one another and ultimately are successful in establishing basic rights for mental patients in the US. I found the film very moving and am certain that Carter is due for an Oscar nomination and maybe a win for her performance. Some critics have been less enthusiastic about the movie because they feel it fails to raise enough anger about how people in the mental health system in the US are treated. We were lucky to have the director, Carter, the writer, and the two actual lawyers who fought the case and are still fighting for patient rights in the US present for a Q and A after the movie. They made it clear that they wanted to tell the story of the friendship between the two leads and in this they were more than successful. It is too bad that the critics in question did not listen to the filmmakers. This is an Oscar worthy film – no question.

http://www.tiff.net/tiff/55-steps/

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