Monday, April 8, 2013

Movie Review: Running From Crazy

Last night at the 2013 Cleveland International Film Festival, we saw Running From Crazy, which is a documentary about Mariel Hemingway's journey to understand her family's history of mental illness. Mariel is an actress, model, and the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. There are seven suicides in her family, including Ernest and Mariel's sister Margot.

Photo from Running From Crazy's FB Page
This is a very good movie for so many reasons. First, there is footage from when Mariel's sister Margot was creating a documentary about Ernest Hemingway. In the footage you can really see the family dynamics Mariel speaks of from her childhood. You also hear Margot talking about her struggles, which hit so close to home for those of us with mental illness.

Second, this movie is from the perspective of one of the healthier members of the family, Mariel, trying to live within a dysfunctional family, find her own peace and her own way out to break the cycle of mental illness and dysfunction. I think it is important to hear not only from the voices of those with mental illness but from their family members as well. Mariel is so candid about her emotions concerning different family members and how she is working towards greater understanding and compassion. What is beautiful about the movie is that she is not insulting to her family, but truly seeks to understand them better and talk about the times when she may have been unkind to her sisters. She truly talks about the whole family system rather than blaming and shaming anyone. This shows in incredible amount of insight and spiritual work on her part. And she is honest that she is still working on some of those issues. She is not perfect, just like none of us are perfect.

For me personally, as someone with mental illness, I identified with much of this movie not only from Mariel's point of view but also in some of the things her sister Margot spoke of and her pain. It was healing for me to watch this movie and know I am not alone in some of my life experiences. This is why I think sharing our stories is so important. We tend to think we are the only ones stuck in a situation that is scary and we don't understand, and this creates a lot of shame. We need to know there are others out there in similar situations also striving to change dynamics, become well for themselves, and live a happy and healthy life.

Mariel talked a bit about her lifestyle as well, which she sees as essential to wellness. Rarely in the community of mental illness do you hear people talking about anything other than medication as a way to recovery. This makes it very hard for those of us who feel a different way is a better fit for them. People seem to think that I am required to take medication and I am irresponsible if I do not. Then again others say I must not really have a mental illness if I don't take medication. This is not true. I just believe that we have the ability to know what our bodies and minds need to be well and for some of us that means we need medication as well as a healthy lifestyle and for others we do not need the medication.

Our home brewed mango kombucha (fermented tea).
I loved seeing Mariel on the trampoline, being active, and talking about drinking kombucha and eating local foods. These are things that Jeff and I do, yet most people think it is weird and a very restrictive life. Mariel was also walking across a slack line, which Jeff bought a while ago and has been wanting us to try. I guess I have to try it now! It is all about finding the diet that works for you which heals your body and mind, getting out in the sun and nature, sleeping well, exercising, having fun, and having a spiritual practice in your life.

One of the hardest things about sticking with this lifestyle is that it is difficult to do if you do not live in a community that supports it. Mariel and her partner Bobby Williams created The Willing Way in order to help support other people who want a healthy lifestyle. This is important in terms of general community support but also, I find it difficult to find healthy living supporters who also understand mental illness. Many of these groups are quite unsupportive of those of us who can't just make a decision one day and stick with it forever. We are seen as weak and selfish. I think Mariel could be a great voice for understanding and acceptance for those of us struggling with mental illness who want non-pharmacological ways to reach recovery.

I recommend seeing this movie to give real insight into mental illness from a whole family perspective. It shows the reality of mental illness, but it also the hope that exists as well.


Rev. Katie


  1. Excellent review, Katie. I saw the film in Durham this past weekend and felt the same way. Blogged about it this morning.

    Prayers for a continued healthy and happy life for you and your family. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with us too.

    God Bless!

    1. I read your review from their Facebook site and it is great!

      (It is here for those who want to read it:

      Blessings to you too.

  2. Thanks for the excellent review. I hope to see it.
    Sarah Henderson

    1. I hope you got to see it but if you didn't, whenever it comes out I will get it and you can borrow it.