Aaron Fisher, Ellen Toland, Eric Roberts, Paul Schulze, Catherine Curtin, Rosie Perez
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…equal parts aggressively honest and enjoyably giddy.
Over the last decade, writer/director/actor Aaron Fisher has been at the cinematic grindstone, sharpening his special brand of neurotically-charged rom-coms over a handful of shorts as well as the TV series Single And Baller. Taking one of the first lessons in creative arts to heart (write what you know), he has taken his own psychiatric history and created an aesthetic that deals candidly with aspects of mental illness, while shying away from the more ‘inspiration porn’ elements of it within the mainstream. And with his latest, Inside The Rain, he crystallises his worldview into something equal parts aggressively honest and enjoyably giddy.
As a depiction of bipolar disorder (Fisher’s own diagnoses and that of his character in film student Benjamin Glass), it immediately starts on the right note in how it doesn’t dress up any of the finer points for popular consumption. From the manic/depressive swings to the encounters with health professionals, right down to the uncanny condescension he keeps running into from people supposedly advocating for him (Natalie Carter’s Mrs. Morgan winds up being the most loathsome character here for that very reason), it all hits a quite uncomfortable brutality in how accurate it feels. Those with the condition will find something to empathise with, and those without will (hopefully) learn a bit about a disorder that gets treated so flippantly in the real world.
The story at its core is about Ben being brought before a college board after a misunderstanding, and him wanting to make a film about the events that took place to show his innocence. He keeps being refuted by basically everyone that this is just a “manic delusion”. And ultimately, in a society where “just walk it off” is legitimate clinical advice, once-removed fiction is the only way that some people will ever understand what this feels like.
Not that this film ever gives the idea that curtailing to the terminally-unhelpful is worthwhile. On the contrary; along with being cripplingly emotional and funny without cancelling itself out, it takes a good, hard look at the system that puts on the good face of assisting those in need, when ultimately it only serves to maintain the ‘sane’ status quo; asking why living “recklessly extravagant” is such a bad idea compared to the box society keeps putting these people in. It weighs up the possibilities and gives a hearty, cathartic and liberating “Fuck ‘em.”