Movie review / ‘Happy Sad Man’ (M)

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“Happy Sad Man” (M) ****

DO you know a man living with mental illness? Do him a kindness. Take him to see Australian documentarist Genevieve Bailey’s film telling about four men who are living with mental illness and one man who’s doing something to help.

“Happy Sad Man” doesn’t balk at difficult issues. I cannot imagine how watching it might affect people, men especially but very likely also women, who are enduring mental health issues. Different strokes for different folks. People not suffering a mental illness will probably not find it disquieting. 

It confronts, in a different, less artificial, way, the issue underlying currently-screening feature film “Joker”. Its men are in general disarmingly accepting of their conditions. But what about people with undiagnosed mental illness, or who are too embarrassed to seek help?

The film begins with John who lives alone in the outback and acknowledges that he has a mental illness. John pops up through the film. TV cameraman Jake has seen and recorded the horrors of war. Artist David is busy trying to market a fragrance embodying the smells of his beloved dachshund. Grant spends his life surfing.

Those four blokes speak candidly about themselves. So does Ivan, who works helping men and their families to deal with the life burdens they are carrying. The world needs more Ivans. And we’re going to need more. 

Bailey’s film, costing relatively little to highlight their plights without showy production values, is more than just a message movie. A decaying environment, loneliness, an inability to cope, these are important harbingers of mental ill-health. It’s a terrible shame that society has to rely on politicians to provide resources for dealing with them.

At Palace Electric


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"Happy Sad Man" (M) ****
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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