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Drunk on Too Much Life 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by New Day Films, 350 North Water Street Unit 1-12, Newburgh, NY 12550; 888-367-9154
Produced by Michelle Melles and Pedro Orrego, Parallel Vision Pictures
Directed by Michelle Melles
Streaming, 77 mins

College - General Adult
Psychiatry; Psychology; Social Work

Date Entered: 02/03/2023

Reviewed by Bryan J. Sajecki, University at Buffalo

Psychosis is terrifying to imagine; hearing voices, seeing visions, believing self-created narratives that are anything but true. Within the sphere of mental illness, it is incredibly difficult to treat, usually combining a cocktail of medications with an assortment of different therapies. Beyond that, the stigma surrounding the diagnosis and condition can be suffocating and altogether exclusionary and harmful. In a general sense, unless a person has been in the shoes of another, they can only scratch the surface of understanding how something feels. And for the affected person, they are more than likely desperate to make meaning of it themselves. What does it all mean? Is this real? Will it go away?

Drunk on Too Much Life is a documentary that seeks to reimagine the definition of madness and the understanding of mental illness. It is incredibly unique in that the director, Michelle Melles, has a personal connection to the project, as the film’s main player is her daughter, Corinna. At the onset, the tone is heavy and oppressive, as the viewer watches an emerging adult trapped in her own fears of spiraling into an episode, shaking while she sleeps amidst a catatonic plunge. That fear is very real for her because she has been there before. It is like a dark passenger that creepily follows a few paces behind, whispering when she gets a bit too far for its liking. Despite the whispers, Corinna has a plan; she wants to understand her condition and figure out how to harness it. Perhaps it can be leveraged like a superpower, or a gift? And going further, who is going to stop her from trying?

Like a myriad of films before it, the subject of the limitations of psychotropics as a magic bullet is discussed. This conversation occurs throughout, as Corinna meets several supporters that become companions on the journey. With the help of her family, she embraces holistic approaches to treating her condition, such as poetry, music, and art. These provide a necessary catharsis, as she uses the mediums to speak the words she cannot find to describe her feelings. The viewer can see the light in her eyes as she sings (even if she is off key) and hear the power in her voice when she recites a prose poem. Ultimately, she wants to control her “superpowers” so she can help her peers in this battle, demonstrating how pure her heart is.

The film smartly uses animated collages to transition between scenes, often including one of Corinna’s songs or stanzas to continue telling the story even in a break of sorts. It also serves as a much needed aesthetic to break up the heavy undertones of the subject matter. Family pictures are also used to enhance the story, showing the chronology of Corinna’s life through her descent into madness. Additionally, interviews with psychologists and with those who also live with the dark passenger provide a sense of hope and understanding. Their contextual expertise helps to shed light on the belief that this condition can be harnessed because they have done it or assisted others in the task.

Drunk on Too Much Life is a poignant documentary that provides a distinct point of view regarding psychology and mental illness that others before it have failed to do. It destroys any sense of stigma and any viewer is surely better for it. This film will be a strong addition to any academic library, especially one with a strong health science, mental health, or social work background.

Official Selection, Social Change Film Festival (Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles), 2022; Official Selection, Mental Filmness Festival (Chicago), 2022; Official Selection, Rendezvous With Madness Festival, Closing Night Film, Toronto, 2021; Quarter Finalist, ReelAbilities Film Festival, New York, 2022; The Gold Medal, The Creative School, Toronto Metropolitan University, 2021; Merit of Awareness (Honorable Mention) - Awareness Film Festival 2022

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.