They don’t make a lot of films that deal with mental illness for good reason. It’s a tough subject to portray realistically. Sure there are plenty that have that one crazy aunt or a sweet homeless guy that just needs to be loved. But actual problems like the ones in Broken Diamonds require a director and a script not to fall into the trap of treating mental illness as a plot point to be exploited for a dramatic beat. Sadly, that’s exactly what this film does with the main character’s schizophrenia.
The film is structured around Scott’s (Ben Platt, Pitch Perfect) impending move to Paris to become a writer. A week before he’s set to leave, his father dies. And just at that moment, his older sister Cindy (Lola Kirke) is ejected from the mental facility where she lives. So he’s tasked with taking care of her, and everything that could go wrong does. And he’s not really all that helpful. In flashback we see that he was/is jealous of the attention she got as the golden child, thwarting his early writerly ambitions. But she’s got some serious problems. She hears voices, she acts inappropriately a lot, she doesn’t take her meds. And all Scott wants is to sell Dad’s house and skedaddle to Paris.
And that’s one of the biggest problem with the movie. Scott isn’t likeable in the least. While his sister is clearly in need of massive help, he’s mostly concerned with selling his car and taking his trip. And even when Cindy’s therapist shines a light on his own issues, he doesn’t really wake up.
Kirke who I really liked from “Mozart in the Jungle” is very good as the sister, but Platt is entirely one dimensional throughout. There are moments in the film that might have been emotional, like when Cindy sets Scott’s apartment on fire or when she runs away, that get no rise out of him. Of course some of that’s a script problem. And it’s kind of a cliched mess. If you’re looking for a movie about mental illness, I’d suggest putting this one on the skip it list and rewatching Ordinary People or even Silver Linings Playbook.
In theaters and on demand July 23.