Helen – Movie Review
A talented professor is forced to come to terms with her clinical depression.
Helen is a well-meaning movie that stars Ashley Judd, Goren Visnjic and Lauren Lee Smith. It is directed and written by Sandra Nettlebeck, and if I had to guess I would guess that this is probably somewhat autobiographical. Helen is a college professor who has a fabulous younger husband and a daughter that seems to love her. She is divorced but she is beautiful, has friends who adore her, and holds a great job. Despite all this, she seems to be having some trouble. Since all of us have seen so many Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie-of-the-Weeks, we assume that she either has inoperable cancer or a brain tumor or something that is causing all these symptoms. What we find out about halfway through the movie is that she is depressed. She finds friendship with Mathilde, who is one of her students who is bipolar. The problem is that it is not a very accurate depiction of depression. All of the somatic symptoms are really, I think, somewhat exaggerated. I like Ashley Judd and certainly have to applaud the effort to bring some humanity and some face to mental illness, but I don’t think it is very accurate and I don’t think it is very helpful on that basis. It is also overly dramatic, so I wasn’t really crazy about this movie. I suppose crazy about it is exactly the appropriate pun, isn’t it? I give it one star.