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Movie review Shutter Island

October 28, 2012

Last night I watched the movie Shutter Island for the first time.  I knew nothing about it other than the fact it was a thriller.  I enjoyed the suspense and the mystery for most of the movie.  I even liked the “conspiracy theory” about using people with mental illness as “Guinea pigs” for surgical and drug experimentation.  Well, I didn’t “like” it but it felt true.  The movie was set in the 50s after all.

Near the end of the movie, it is revealed that the main character has imagined all the evidence to support his theory.  He in fact has a mental illness and is a patient not a marshal investigating a disappearance.  This was like pricking the balloon of the movie with a pin.  I felt deflated.  Not because the main character had a mental illness but by how the movie portrayed his experience of psychosis.  It did not ring true to what others have told me about the causes and effects of psychosis. 

It gets worse.  The message at the end of the movie is that it is better to die than to have a mental illness.  Other reviewers may argue that the message is that it is better to die than to believe you are a monster.  Either way, I found it a very negative view of the worth of people – particularly people with mental illness.

This movie reminded me why I don’t like watching the TV show Criminal Minds anymore.  I understand the popularity of the program.  The mystery solving aspect of the show is very interesting.  It is just that I feel uncomfortable with the repeated message that people with mental illnesses are violent.  I am also uneasy with the under-emphasis of the biological contribution to mental illness.

This movie reminded me that the message “living with impairment is like living in a horror show” is ever-present.  Unfortunately, because of representations such as those in Shutter Island and Criminal Minds, it sometimes feels like that (or at least like living in a very melancholy movie).

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