David O. Russell did a great thing when he chose to write the screenplay for and direct Silver Lining Playbook. Yes, he shaped a film that garnered eight Academy Award nominations, but he also accomplished something else. He broached a topic people are still reluctant to openly discuss: mental illness.
Billed as a romantic comedy-drama, Silver Lining Playbook provides a hearty glimpse into lives affected by bi-polar disorder, depression, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Pat Solitano, Jr., played by Bradley Cooper, returns to his parents’ home after spending eight months at a mental health facility for bi-polar disorder and beating up his wife’s lover. The family struggles to establish order and calm between Pat’s verbal outbursts and physical violence.
One insightful scene takes place at the dinner table. There, friends rattle off the list of meds they’ve been on for mental illness and the side effects of each. Rarely do we hear about how prescription drugs can leave someone feeling far less than “normal.” We are more likely to assume that right balance of medications will tame emotional roller coasters and life will be just fine. This is far from the case, as this film describes.
In the end, Silver Lining Playbook goes the way of most romantic comedies. Love wins. But that too may be a reflection of real life. After all, love is curative. It heals. Perhaps we should spend more time loving people into treatment, loving them through it, and loving them on the other side. It may not be the whole solution, but it certainly seems to be one that people suffering from mental health challenges and addictions need.