the middle year explores the complexities of bipolar disorder as it follows Clemence, who is forced to return home from college after alienating those around her. alex hellerHis debut as a writer, director and actor premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
co-stars Wyatt Olef Y Emily Robinson joined Heller in a conversation with the founder of uInterview erik meers to discuss the real-life experiences that influenced the film.
“I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 19 years old. I dropped out freshman year of college and spent a lot of time figuring out what treatment means, which is a big focus in the movie,” Heller shared. “Around the same time, one of my close friends dropped out of college due to mental illness and soon after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is a very common thing that people deal with. It was very emotional for me. I went back to college and in my senior year I wrote the first draft of the script for a class project. That was seven years ago. A couple of years ago, I dusted it off and started letting a couple of friends read it. From there, I built my life trying to tell this specific story.”
Heller explained why he felt it was important for humor to play a role in the film’s approach to a very serious subject matter.
“I rely on honesty,” he said. “I think that’s where you can be in a safe space and be respectful of serious topics while shedding light on a humorous side of them. There is nothing about mental illness or how a family can embrace it and learn to accept it that is impossible…everything about bipolar disorder is drawn exactly from my life. When I was in doubt as to whether I was pushing a limit too far, I rested, ‘Well, this is true on some level.’ I feel like I have the reasons to push the limit.”
The cast also revealed their hopes for what the audience will take away from the film.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or who you think you are in life,” Robinson said. “Everybody goes through that sometimes and that’s okay. It is okay to need support and ask for help. This doesn’t have to be her exact story in order to relate to her and find comfort in knowing that everyone goes through her. Having empathy for people and for oneself is really important.”
“I think Alex making this movie will get people talking about her,” Oleff added. “One of the biggest ways to get people talking about new things and get people comfortable with it is to laugh and laugh at it instead of saying, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I should be laughing, I’m not. . I know how to really deal with this. Alex does it masterfully with this film. She balances and walks that line very well. I hope people talk about it and it becomes more of a normal thing instead of something where people say, ‘I don’t know how to talk about this properly,’ because obviously there’s no right way to talk about it.”
the middle year is now available in select theaters.
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