Broken Diamonds utilizes humor in how it seeks to tell a story about mental illness on screen with a main focus on schizophrenia.
Scott Weaver (Ben Platt) is planning to upend his life and move to France when life changes in an instant. He gets a call from his dad only stepmom Cookie (Yvette Nicole Brown) informing him that he’s father just died. Cookie asks Scott to pick up his sister, Cindy (Lola Kirke), so that they can see the body. Not too longer after this, it’s Scott to the rescue when Cindy gets kicked out of a mental health facility. She’s on a number of medications but its clear that neither Cookie nor their mother wants anything to do with Cindy. With no rooms open for a number of weeks, Scott has to make the best of this situation even as he plans to move to Paris. Easier said than done.
At one point during the film, Scott and Cindy run into one of her childhood friends, Julie. Cindy boasted talent and in Julia’s eyes, she could have been a Hollywood star. The reality is not this simple because Cindy’s mental illness makes it impossible. Anyway, Julia invites them to her party and that’s when the mood dampens rather quickly.
Mental illness is a tricky subject when it comes to storytelling. For starters, you have to be tasteful. And in a film like this where Steve Waverly’s script is going for humor, where do you draw the line? Is there a point in which people become the butt of a joke? These are just some of the questions one must ask themselves. I’m no stranger to mental health facilities myself having had a stay in a psych ward following a very dark period in 2017. I’m open abut this but this is another story for another day. But in any event, this is a rather personal film for Steve Waverly. Much like Scott in the film, Steve’s sister has a mental illness.
It isn’t often that we see schizophrenia depicted on screen. One film that does come to mind is Ron Howard’s biopic of John Nash, A Beautiful Mind. The film went onto win a number of Academy Awards including Best Picture. But how accurate is the film in its portrayal of schizophrenia? I certainly couldn’t tell you because it’s not my area of expertise. I can only speak to what happens when depression rears its ugly head. When it comes to discussing mental illness, it shouldn’t be a stigma. That it should be normalized to where we should feel open about it. We shouldn’t be scared to talk about depression, anxiety, etc. This is the beauty of watching Broken Diamonds. The film wants to normalize people discussing mental illness and there is nothing wrong with this. I mean, take a look at the conversation that plays out during the end credits!
Broken Diamonds may go for humor but when it comes to schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, it should help in breaking down the stigma.
DIRECTOR: Peter Sattler
SCREENWRITER: Steve Waverly
CAST: Ben Platt, Lola Kirke, Alphonso McAuley, and Yvette Nicole Brown