This review is two years late. I had never heard of the 2012 documentary film “Of Two Minds,” and am fortunate Maurice stumbled upon it while surfing through movies available on Netflix Instant Play. Because I had never seen the film, I can assume that many others missed this sometimes good, sometimes bad, always interesting movie.
The film was co-directed by Lisa J. Klein and her husband Douglas Blush. Klein was motivated by her sister, Tina, who had bipolar disorder and took her own life at the age of 42.
Bipolar is “like taking the best day you’ve ever had and multiplying it by a million,” is the first thing spoken in the film. This attention grabber lets the viewer know they are in for a wild ride.
There are numerous people interviewed for the film, but the primary focus is on three individuals, Cheri who is a makeup artist who lives in Los Angeles, California; Carlton, an artist and architect from Pasadena, California; and Liz from Philadelphia Pennsylvania, who is a writer and journalist.
One of the films strengths is that each of these individuals is vastly different from the others, yet, each fairly represents the face of bipolar disorder.
Cheri, aged 37, gets the most air time and is the one I connected with most. I first felt that connection when she says she had attempted suicide and failed and then commented that she couldn’t even do that right. This is something I’ve said many times regarding the three times I nearly killed myself. Frustration and relief all rolled into one.
Knowing she was a danger to herself, and frustrated by the cost of medication, Cheri sought help at the Hollywood Free Clinic, which is the first clinic I went to for help. Like me, she was told there was a three month waiting list even though she said she was suicidal.
Where Cheri and I differ is that she managed her illness by focusing on her physical health, alternative medicine and diet. Whereas I only found help through medication. Better living through chemistry my doctor and I like to joke.
Carlton, aged 67, spent most of his life in an out of control spiral. While he seemed to be the most balanced of the three, his story was the most bizarre. He describes a lifetime of pain which includes an estimation of working 40 jobs. At his lowest he began cross dressing and developed an alter ego named Carlotta who walked the streets at night carrying an ice pick in her purse for security. He takes us to a highway overpass where he planned jumping into oncoming traffic, but turned back when he realized that car drivers may be killed in the process. As Carlotta he contemplated threatening police officers with her ice pick, with the goal of “suicide by cop,” Strangest of all he spent time in bathhouses with the goal of contracting AIDS.
His bottom was when his wife discovered he’d been cross dressing and that he was addicted to crack cocaine. She got him to seek help and for the first time, to his relief, he found that his problems were a result of having bipolar disorder.
The third person, Liz Spikol showed no signs of bipolar disorder until she was raped as a teenager. Her doctor suggested that she had a predisposition to bipolar disorder, which came to the surface as a result of the rape. At the time of the video she was a writer for the Philadelphia Weekly where she wrote about her life in her column and blog named “The Trouble with Spikol.” I must admit, as a blogger, I was always envious of her blog and the number of awards it received. I never knew she or her blog were connected with Philadelphia Weekly. I commend Liz for being one of the trailblazers by publically coming out of the mental illness closet.
As informative as the film is, I have some concerns. First is that there is an emphasis on Liz’s rape as a teenager and Carlton being sexually abused while in foster care. I have no doubt these may have been a catalyst in bringing their bipolar to the surface, However, I’m concerned that uninformed viewers will be led to believe that bipolar disorder is inherently the result of traumatic events. This is not true in most cases.
Additionally the film does take some detours which seemed unnecessary and even out of place. While it focuses primarily on three individuals, there are other brief interviews which offered nothing to the film other than making it somewhat repetitive.
Most out of place was a segment concerning a California donut shop named Psycho Donuts which had protesters upset that the shop carried items named bipolar donuts, head trauma donuts, and more. “Mental Illness is Not a Joke” was written on some of the signs the protestors carried.
What made the film is most successful is there were no detailed theories of the cause of bipolar disorder, nor were solutions offered. The film was about the individuals. Individuals who happened to have bipolar disorder and how it affects their lives.
Despite its flaws I was pleased with “Of Two Minds” and recommend it. I believe it is a must see for friends and family members who have a loved one’s living with bipolar disorder.
If you are interested in reading more about this documentary, I suggest the “Of Two Minds.” Official website. I encourage everyone to view the film and I look forward to reading your thoughts and feelings in the comments area below.