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January 16, 2009
Sundance Report #4 – Boy Interrupted Review
— Posted by John Campea
PROSPECTOR THEATRE, PARK CITY
“Oh my God, we’re at the Sundance Film Festival because my son killed himself.”
These are the words spoken by Dana Perry, director of “Boy Interrupted,” when asked what was going through her head while watching the world premiere of her documentary film. Since leaving Temple Theater about 30 minutes ago, I’ve been searching for the right way to talk about this film – a film directed by the mother of a boy who committed suicide at age 15 after 10 years of battling with diagnosed bipolar disorder. He goes through periods of happiness, then periods of extreme depression. Suicide is a subject all-too-common since the age of 5. All seems to be going well for the first time in years as he moves into his teenage years, but then he’s slowly taken off meds and, without warning, he jumps from his New York apartment bedroom window. It’s a heavy experience, so here’s what I’m going to do – split this two ways:
Emotional: Hard to argue with such a personal story. With both parents of Evan Perry, the subject of the film, intimately involved with the project as director and cinematographer, respectively, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how it must have been to distance themselves enough from the material. Hart, the father, made it clear to the audience during the Q&A that this film was really about sharing the experience of their journey toward trying to make Evan well and not about the extreme grief of losing a child to suicide. However, it’s tough to escape that framing since it underscores so much of the film. Both Dana and Hart entered into the project also hoping it might allow them some closure, but found that not the case in the slightest. Though Evan’s death is now three years in the past, the wounds are clearly still fresh. As Dana said following the film, “that’s the first and last time I’ll have seen this film with an audience.”
Technical: This is not a film that prides itself on production quality. Told mostly through somewhat blurry home video clips and talking-head interviews, it’s not a film that will win awards for cinematography or for editing. At first I was struck by the lower perceived level of quality, but at the end of it all, the quality of the imagery on screen doesn’t really matter. The story is communicated effectively and with a lot of emotion. What more is needed?
Should you see this film? Not if you’re disturbed by teen suicide or the thought of your children killing themselves. But if you’re up for an emotional story about loss and a family’s journey to try and save their son from his own mind, then it’s definitely worth a look.
You can find out more at www.boyinterruptedfilm.com
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