The Reel Review
In May 2008, the body of a woman, dead for several months, was discovered in an abandoned farmhouse in New Hampshire. Next to it was a journal she had kept, documenting the last four months of her life there, where she lived without running water or electricity, eating apples from a nearby tree and drinking rain water before starving to death during one of the region’s harshest winters on record. This haunting, compassionately-told documentary tells a story all too familiar to families of those with mental illness, where Linda Bishop, a formerly vibrant, lively individual, gradually unravels due to mental illness (in her case bipolar disorder), refusing to take her meds and isolating herself from concerned family members, frustrated by laws that leave the decision making to those lacking the ability to decide what’s best for themselves. Although filmmakers Jedd and Todd Wider at times linger a bit too long on the sanguine shots and pleasant music, the film is an insightful perspective into Linda’s deteriorating mind, combined with heartbreaking interviews with her family and friends and archival home video of Linda from happier times. This understated but powerful film is a compelling commentary about the sad state of mental health care in America, and is a must see for anyone with a loved one struggling with mental illness. We as a nation can do better.
On Netflix and iTunes.
• The voice of Linda Bishop (reading her journals) is Lori Singer (Footloose)
• The documentary aired on PBS in October 2018
• Some signs of mental illness: changes in mood, sleep, appetite; social isolation; illogical thinking; nervousness; and unusual behavior