By Timia Cobb
Web Content contributor
More than 200,000 people a year are diagnosed with schizophrenia which is described by The National Institute of Mental Health as a “chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.” Mental illnesses have become accustomed to being explained incorrectly in films.
Giving someone the role of a crazy person then blaming it on a mental illness can be degrading for those who have them because in actuality mental illnesses can come in various disorders and magnitudes that doesn’t automatically make someone crazy.
The Voices, a 2014 dark comedy film, isn’t the most relatable film for people who struggle with schizophrenia but it does astoundingly well at explaining the numerous emotions people with not only schizophrenia but mental illness go through. It also helps teach bystanders to be more aware of people who might need help and comprehend what someone with a mental illness could be feeling.
The Voices is a film about Jerry (played by Ryan Reynolds) who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. At the beginning of the movie you wouldn’t immediately think anything was wrong with Jerry. He’s a little weird, awkward and has a tough time picking up social cues or body language.
At first, you honestly might think this movie is a comedy about an awkward guy who lives with his two pets and has a crush on the girl he works with but the movie happens to be alluding to the saddening truth of someone living with schizophrenia while deciding not to take medication.
Jerry doesn’t have many friends but he does have his dog Bosco and cat, Mr.Whiskers. Throughout the movie, Bosco and Mr. Whiskers are able to talk to Jerry and play the roles of Jerry’s conscious. Bosco represents the morally good side of Jerry, he always reassures him and makes him understand when he has done something bad while Mr. Whiskers is Jerry’s evil side.
Mr. Whiskers encourages Jerry to be selfish and to hurt others. As the film progresses you start to understand that this isn’t a comedy but is a messed up story about a man who is frankly a good person but somehow is ignorant of his own illness and in conclusion ruins his life.
Jerry kills three people in this movie and each time his reasoning for killing them was either out of mercy, was an accident or because he was afraid. However, the movie hints that there are two realities happening during this film, Jerry’s reality and the reality of those he killed which makes it unclear how exactly his victims died.
In the eyes of his victims they were brutally murdered while in Jerry’s eyes he kept killing but never meant to initially hurt anyone. For the most part the movie is shown from Jerry’s point of view which makes it hard to decipher what is reality, in result it paints a picture of what people diagnosed with schizophrenia might experience when not knowing what is real and what isn’t.
In a scene from the movie Jerry is driving with his crush, Fiona, and accidently hits a deer. The deer goes through the windshield but lives. In Jerry’s reality the deer begs for Jerry to put him out of his misery knowing he won’t make it. In conclusion, Jerry slits the deer’s throat and tries to comfort now terrified Fiona by telling her the deer told him to do it.
Out of fear Fiona runs from the truck away from Jerry who chases her trying to console her. When he catches up with her he accidently falls and stabs her in the stomach. Seeing that Fiona is dying he treats her like the deer he killed no more than three minutes ago and repeatedly stabs Fiona “out of mercy.” Fiona is the first person he kills in the movie.
He goes home, where his dog Bosco tells him to go to the police and turn himself in. Mr. Whiskers says the opposite telling jerry he shouldn’t deny that he enjoyed it and he should hide the body. Jerry refusing that he enjoyed killing Fiona takes Mr.Whiskers advice anyway, dismembers Fiona’s body and places each part in tupperware. He decides to store her head in his fridge which throughout the film talks to him and encourages Jerry to kill more people.
There is no excuse for how horrible this sounds because indeed it is horrible but in Jerry’s mind he thought he was doing the right thing by putting her out of her misery and he was afraid to go to jail.
Jerry’s downfall happens towards the end of the movie where watchers are finally allowed to see past Jerry’s false reality. He starts to take his medication again but realizes that life is harder for him.
Now that he is taking his medication Bosco nor Mr.Whiskers can talk to him and he sees the state of his apartment, with Fiona’s blood everywhere, pet feces and more. Terrified by seeing how he really is living and not being able to talk to his pets he stops taking his medication.
Jerry deciding not to take his medication can be the case for many people. He felt lonely and like he didn’t have anyone when he couldn’t talk to his pets. He also didn’t like having to know that he has a problem and this was his reality.
The movie ends we Jerry allowing himself to die in a house fire. The reason for this is because even without taking medication the fear of reality and the problems he was trying to escape caught up to him.
The Voices isn’t by any level saying this is what everyone with schizophrenia goes through but it does allow those who watch the movie to understand that many of the things Jerry did could’ve been prevented.This is the same for anyone who suffers from a mental illness.
Maybe they just need a friend to encourage them to take their medication even if it’ll be hard for them. Jerry felt lonely and didn’t really have anyone he could truthfully talk to besides his pets. No matter if it is schizophrenia, depression, dementia, anxiety disorders etc. if you think someone needs help, don’t just be a bystander, use that opportunity to help them and if you don’t think you are capable of helping them, find someone who can.
Featured image via screenshot by Timia Cobb.